“Most people don't realize how important librarians are. I ran across a book recently which suggested that the peace and prosperity of a culture was solely related to how many librarians it contained. Possibly a slight overstatement. But a culture that doesn't value its librarians doesn't value ideas and without ideas, well, where are we?”
Neil Gaiman

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Waiting for the storm...

Remembering Katrina

New Orleans 9th Ward 2011

Lower 9th Ward 2011

As I sit here waiting for hurricane Irene to hit the east coast I am reminded that August 29th marks the 6th year since Hurricane Katrina wiped out the Gulf region. The 2005 hurricane season cost $81 billion and killed 1836 people. I can remember looking at the television screen in awe as scenes of New Orleans flooded flashed across it. In the weeks that followed as the waters finally started to recede all I could think of was “it’s going to take a decade for the city to recover…” While I was at ALA, I took a tour through the now legendary ninth ward. I am sad to say that my estimate of a decade was off base. It will take two decades.

New Orleans has made incredible strides and I encourage everyone to pack their bags and visit the city. They need the tourism industry to survive and they are ready to embrace tourists with open arms. The challenge for New Orleans is rebuilding those sections that were hit hardest by the devastation. They need volunteers to continue coming to the Gulf Coast and helping to rebuild and they’ll need it for a long time. I’m not sure that many of us understand what people lost in that disaster. Drive through the ninth ward and it becomes evident; many people lost everything. There is no house to come back to. Many cannot afford to rebuild. Some lost their lives.

Many excellent documentaries and books were created after Katrina. Some were even written specifically for children. Here are three of my favorites:

By independent filmmaker Geralyn Pezanoski
In the last minute rush to get out of the city as Hurricane Katrina was bearing down, and with a mandatory emergency evacuation order issued from the mayor, the city’s poor were left with few options. Many had to scramble to gather as many family members and friends as they could into what few vehicles were available. Pets were not allowed at the public shelters opened up at the Superdome nor did most people have room in their overcrowded vehicles forcing them to leave them behind with extra food and water hoping for a quick return once danger passed. Mine is the story of the tragedy Katrina left behind for both the pets and pet owners in its path of destruction.

Two Bobbies
By Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery and illustrated by Jean Cassels
Bobbi and Bob Cat are two animals who survive Katrina and form a unique friendship. Bobbi is a dog and Bob Cat is not only a cat, but blind. This is a heart-warming and beautifully written and illustrated story based on the story of two very real animals. It is a wonderful way to talk to children about disasters because it is told from the perspective of animals and appeals to a sense of empathy in younger children.

Ninth Ward
By Jewell Parker Rhodes
Twelve-year-old Lanesha is being raised by her Mama Ya Ya; her mother’s midwife. Her mother died in childbirth. Mama Ya Ya is a visionary. They live in the ninth ward in New Orleans with very little money, but they get by. When the hurricane comes, Lanesha knows they should leave, but Mama Ya Ya is too old and she won’t leave her. Mamma Ya Ya has always taken care of her, so now it’s up to her to take care of them. 

Me and the VERY lovely Jewell Parker Rhoades at ALA!!!

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