[StBernard] Governor's Column: Remembering Rita and realizing a rainbow of hope

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Sep 21 22:38:52 EDT 2006

Remembering Rita and realizing a rainbow of hope
A Column by Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

We will soon mark the anniversary of Hurricane Rita - the second of two storms that ravaged this state and our people a year ago. In doing so, we pause to acknowledge the damage and losses suffered. But we also recognize the progress of the spirited survivors of the storm eager to overcome their tragedy.

We will never forget how Rita's storm surge attacked southwestern Louisiana, destroying coastal communities like Holly Beach, Cameron and Pecan Island, even flooding inland towns of Delcambre and Erath. A casino boat and several barges floated loose in Lake Charles and damaged a bridge spanning Interstate 10 across the Calcasieu River. The storm overwhelmed a fragile and already compromised New Orleans levee system, and more than 700,000 homes lost power in 41 of our state's 64 parishes.

We saw family after family heeding the call to evacuate. We saw farmers watching their fields succumb to powerful winds and rising salt waters. We saw ranchers losing valuable livestock.

We remember these things, yet other images deserve a place in the story of Rita - the images not widely reported, but important to the legacy of this experience.

We must remember the lines of volunteer rescuers, blinded by stinging rain and wind, who lined the streets in front of the sheriff's office in Abbeville, trailing boats behind their trucks.

We must remember thoughtful residents in Lake Charles who cut and cleared downed trees so their elderly neighbors could leave their homes.

We saw neighbors helping neighbors and people rescuing each other.

But most importantly, we must remember that with the pain caused by Hurricane Katrina still fresh in our minds, diligent citizens and prepared emergency planners ensured that no lives were lost.

We all know that there are no rainbows unless there has been a storm. In Louisiana, we know a lot about storms, and we are building our own rainbow of hope and opportunity. Homes, communities, and lives are being put back together.

Ninety-nine percent of debris from Hurricane Rita has been removed, and 97 percent of structures damaged beyond repair have been demolished. Homeowners are wasting no time making their repairs and putting lives back together.

My Road Home Housing Assistance Centers recently opened in Grand Lake, Lake Charles and
Erath, providing the support our families need as they rebuild and return home. I opened the first housing center in Lake Charles to send a clear message that we must get every Rita family back in their homes.

In remembering Rita, we ensure that our powerful memories of tragedy and loss do not overcome today's more important convictions - hope and confidence that result from 12 long months of recovery and rebuilding. At this anniversary, we take stock of progress and celebrate accomplishments created by working together as we continue moving closer toward our vision of a safer, stronger, and smarter Louisiana.


The Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation
Louisiana's Fund for Louisiana's People

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