Study pleads for changes on Katrina anniversary

August 29, 2009 9:08:39 PM PDT
Saturday marks four years since Hurricane Katrina pushed ashore, devastating the Gulf Coast and the City of New Orleans. Thousands of people fled the city, never to return again. Here in Houston, survivors are asking the federal government to look at a plan for future disasters. This is the report released on Katrina's anniversary, urging the federal government to give Americans specific rights in the event of a disaster. The group that put this together believes there is way too much discretion given to elected leaders, on what assistance victims need and who needs to give it them.

Hurricane survivor Howard Brown remembers the sound the levees made?

"I heard a boom, I heard a boom. I heard it, I heard it when it gave," said Brown. "It's a good thing I knew how to swim because if I didn't, I would have drowned like a lot of people."

However, surviving the storm was just the beginning of his struggle.

"This is my neighborhood," said Brown.

He took pictures of his neighborhood six months later, while he says he was still waiting for government relief.

"Oh why, oh why, so much pain?" Brown asked.

On the fourth anniversary of the hurricane, the Katrina Citizens Leadership Corps met to release a report, urging the federal government to adopt the United Nations' policies regarding displaced disaster victims.

"Our government does not apply for its own citizens, the good benefits of a standard that it applies abroad," said Monique Harden, co-author of the study.

The UN policies would give the primary responsibility over disaster recovery to the federal government and give victims a right to housing, temporary educational facilities, and healthcare. Those services are now provided at the discretion of the government.

Lashonda Anderson says she remembers the acts of kindness she saw that came from the hands of strangers.

"We didn't see a big government truck come out with sandwiches when we're standing in line for 10 hours. We saw the people of Houston come out with pizza and sandwiches and drinks," she said.

For Brown, it was that long wait. He says it was most devastating for his family, taking away from some the very will to live.

"Too slow, too slow. I'm embarrassed," he said.

Brown told me his mother died and he is still waiting for a home. Stories like his are included in this report which will be presented to congressional leaders in Washington this September.

Meanwhile, in New Orleans, a solemn ceremony was held Saturday to remember the victims of the storm. Mayor Ray Nagin was part of the annual bell ringing service. He says the population of the city is about 80 percent of what it was before the storm, and thanked those who have helped with rebuilding efforts.

More than 1,600 people in Louisiana and Mississippi were killed in the storm and flooding that followed. It caused more than $40 billion dollars in property damage and it's estimated to be the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

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