It’s been seven years since New Orleans was hit with a hurricane that would forever change the landscape and fabric of its city.
Last week’s natural disaster may not have been Hurricane Katrina. But in some ways, Hurricane Isaac was even more detrimental.
“What we’ve been finding out is the same things we found when we were here for Katrina,” said Al New, Deployment Manager of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. ”But emotionally they’re probably in a worse state.
“They just got their lives back together over the last several years only to see it happen to them again.”
Chaplains have already been deployed in three different parishes in New Orleans — St. Bernard, St. John the Baptist and Plaquemines — to help extend emotional and spiritual care to hurricane victims of the Gulf region.
St. John the Baptist Parish, specifically the town of LaPlace, has been ravaged the most, with a reported 6,900 homes damaged, mainly from overflooding rivers. Chaplain reinforcements are being called into LaPlace to help minister to those hurting.
“They’ve got that stare in their eye,” New said. “That stare that says they’re scared. They don’t know what tomorrow brings.
“They have that hopelessness about them, that they just don’t know what to do with themselves.”
New has been stationed in St. Bernard Parish in the 9th Ward, which unlike Katrina, did not get any flooding thanks to a new levee system. However, severe winds damaged siding and roofs and left many downed trees and power outages for days.
“During Katrina, every home in the St. Bernard Parish was under water,” New said. “There was 46 feet of water. There wasn’t any home spared.”
The severe heat coupled with the lack of power created a safety risk, as overheating has become a real concern.
“There’s a 90-year-old lady who people are driving around all day just so she can be in air-conditioning,” New said.
But the biggest issue concerning most people isn’t the heat. It’s facing the fact that their home has been destroyed once again, without prohibitively expensive flood insurance, creating little to no hope for the foreseeable future.
“The people we talked to say ‘we’re done. We’re not coming back here. We’re not going to rebuild,’” New said. “Now that they’ve had time to think about things, it’s bringing up emotions. They’re full of fear.
“We’re trying to love on them and show them they’re not alone.”
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