I was in New Orleans as Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in August 2005. I had moved there a few years before, and the city had become my home. The devastation that followed the storm left me heartbroken. What was more painful than the storm damage was the failure of institutions – the federal, state and local government inaction that heightened the disaster.
The media also failed New Orleans in those days after the storm. Survivors were criminalized. What should have been a rescue operation started to look more like a military occupation. It was not until years later that accountability came for the abuse of police power committed after the storm, when dozens of officers were found to have participated in the shooting of unarmed civilians.
Now, as we approach the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I was able to return to New Orleans as a producer for America Tonight’s coverage. We looked at the issues that face New Orleans today. We examined the ongoing troubles facing the city jail, and listened to complaints of an uneven recovery. The issues New Orleanians are facing today – poverty, criminal justice, education, and health care – are issues faced across the U.S. But in New Orleans, the post-storm recovery has made these issues more acute.
We highlight the voices of those who were often silenced in the days after Katrina; from prisoners to musicians to various residents struggling to get by each day. We seek to hold those in power accountable, and give serious issues the time they deserve.
The Justice Department has said that New Orleans’ city jail has deep problems, so we went there. Our cameras went inside Orleans Parish Prison and spoke to people inside, as well as the sheriff and advocates.
Housing prices are rising in New Orleans, as public housing continues to be torn down. To find out about the state of the recovery, we spoke to developers, business owners, and those who feel left out in the new New Orleans.
This is not the end of our New Orleans coverage. America Tonight is dedicated to in-depth coverage of the stories people are facing across the U.S. – and that includes the people of the place I call home.