School of Social Work

New Orleans

The Katrina Landscape: Two Years Later

Two years after the deadliest storm in United States history, the affected areas in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama continue to struggle to recover. The billions of dollars provided by the world to rebuild and recover have often become entangled in a bureaucratic nightmare of federal, state, and local rules and regulations, compounded by the reluctance of many insurance companies to pay for clean-up and restoration efforts of their policy-holders.

The GVSU School of Social Work has sponsored two service-learning trips by graduate students and faculty to help gut salvageable homes and begin rebuilding. In addition to this direct help, students conducted research and studied policy issues in the affected areas.

This photographic essay depicts what remained on the ground 12 to 18 months AFTER Katrina hit. It is a partial testimony to how quickly our society “forgets” once the news media coverage ends. The landscapes are intentionally devoid of people and desolate, as is the area in and around the 9th Ward in New Orleans.  One can imagine men and women working, children playing, citizens shopping, and all the daily activities that people conduct in this formerly working-class neighborhood. Many of the homeowners in this area happen to be African-American, which raises questions about the role of institutional racism in the slow pace of recovery efforts.

When these photographs were taken by faculty and students, the air remained heavy with the smell of sewage from drainage ditches, mold, mildew and decay, and even the stench of death. It is an awful smell, which remains with the observer for a long time, even after leaving the area.

In a recent return trip by faculty in June, many of these areas in the 9th Ward were still without regular electricity, water and sewer services. There were only a handful of businesses up and running, most with limited hours. On a positive note, the home we gutted has now been renovated and is ready for occupancy; one of many small beacons of light on the horizon. We invite you to consider this photographic essay reminding us of the considerable work that remains to be accomplished in partnership with our fellow citizens.

Video 1 (One Year Later 2006)
Video 2 (One Year Later 2006)


Not as see on TV

Page last modified December 21, 2009