Katrina marker commemorates flooding of Lower 9th Ward

This July 29, 2015 aerial photo shows empty lots and mostly new buildings in the Lower 9th Ward section of New Orleans, foreground. Ten years after Katrina, New Orleans remains a work in progress, aiming to reverse historic racial and economic injustices. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
This July 29, 2015 aerial photo shows empty lots and mostly new buildings in the Lower 9th Ward section of New Orleans, foreground. Ten years after Katrina, New Orleans remains a work in progress, aiming to reverse historic racial and economic injustices. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – The catastrophic flooding of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward now has a commemorative marker at the site where a floodwall protecting the neighborhood collapsed, unleashing a wall of water 10 years ago during Hurricane Katrina.

The plaque was erected Monday and was to be unveiled at an evening ceremony. Poet Chuck Perkins and musician Al “Carnival Time” Johnson were expected to attend the ceremony and speak.

On Aug. 29, 2005, the floodwall along the Industrial Canal catastrophically failed. The resulting flood wiped out the African-American neighborhood and killed scores of people. The marker is located directly in front of where the floodwall collapsed.

Before Katrina, the Lower 9th Ward was a working-class and predominantly African-American neighborhood just outside the city’s historic center. Ten years later, the area is a partially rebuilt neighborhood, still mostly African-American. More than 100 eco-friendly homes were built by Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation as well as other groups. Large areas remain empty, but pockets of the neighborhood that have been restored resemble the area as it was before Katrina.

The neighborhood is the birthplace of and home to notable artists and musicians. New Orleans legend Fats Domino lived there before Katrina.

Getting the plaque erected was the work of Levees.org, a citizens group that formed after Katrina to push for reforms in levee building and oversight.

The group led efforts to erect two similar historical markers at the breach sites along the 17th Street Canal and London Avenue Canal. The three breaches where plaques are now standing caused the majority of the flooding during Katrina.

Levees.org also recently opened an exhibition and rain garden near the site of the London Avenue breach where visitors can learn about what happened to cause the flooding of New Orleans. The group aims to make the exhibit permanent and get it placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sandy Rosenthal, president of Levees.org, said her group wants to make sure Katrina is properly remembered. The group has long pushed to, as members have put it, “bust the myths of the flooding during Katrina.”

The group has sought to expose the engineering failures by the Army Corps of Engineers that led to the flooding of more than 80 percent of New Orleans.

Following Katrina, the Army Corps took responsibility for the flood and has overseen a massive, $14.5 billion upgrading of the city’s flood- protection system. The city is far better protected today against hurricanes than it was 10 years ago.

Rosenthal said the new plaque is “both a commemoration of a pivotal moment in history and a memorial to those lost.”

“For the past 10 years there’s been nothing at the breach site to teach visitors,” she said. “It’s a plaque that will last more than 100 years.”

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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