Bush comments on Katrina sound sour in New Orleans
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — President George W. Bush can defend the federal government’s response to Hurricane Katrina. But to Gertrude LeBlanc, the view from her home in the city’s Lower 9th Ward is all the evidence she needs to believe it was a failure.
A row of concrete foundations is all that’s left where her neighbors’ houses once stood.
“Bush didn’t give a damn what we got,” said the 73-year-old, who says she rebuilt her bright yellow house with the neat yard with help from a church group and the “little bit” in federal aid she got from the state-run program meant to help hurricane-affected homeowners, Road Home.
“To me, black folks weren’t handled right, but we can’t worry about it. We have to do the best we can.”
When Bush leaves office next week, New Orleans will still show the scars of Hurricane Katrina, which slammed ashore on Aug. 29, 2005. LeBlanc’s neighborhood is still largely uninhabited, with weeds tall around some decrepit houses and roads cracked and warped. In some neighborhoods, apartment buildings and businesses are empty. Some houses still bear the haunting markings left by search teams in the frantic aftermath of the storm.
Bush, in some of his last comments before leaving office, said Monday at a news conference that he stood behind the federal government’s response to Katrina, even though he admitted once again that some things could have been done differently and acknowledged there’s still more work to do. Those words stung for people still living in the aftermath of the storm, still waiting for neighbors to come home.
“More people need to have their own home there,” Bush said. “But the systems are in place to continue the reconstruction in New Orleans. You know, people said, ‘Well, the federal response was slow.’ Don’t tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed.”
The comment drew an at-times exasperated response from residents like LeBlanc and government leaders, some of whom believe federal bureaucracy is still choking recovery efforts.
“Clearly there were mistakes made at every level of government, and I and other Louisiana leaders have accepted responsibility for our own,” Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said. “But no state is equipped to respond to a catastrophe of this magnitude, and for this reason, federal law specifically tasks the federal government to step up. It did not, and the president’s failure to account for that responsibility more than three years later is terribly disappointing.”
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