By Renee Lewis & Al Jazeera
New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward is showing signs of new life eight years after Hurricane Katrina, the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. But still, only 30 percent of the low-income neighborhood’s residents have returned, as opposed to 90 percent in the rest of the city.
Lower 9th Ward resident Joyce Morris is one of them.
About 80 percent of New Orleans was underwater after Katrina hit, and it took Morris nearly six years to rebuild her home using money from the federal “Road Home” program.
“My whole house was underwater. The whole entire house was under water,” Morris told Al Jazeera.
While she decided to stay and rebuild, Morris said many of her neighbors left – and have yet to return.
“We’re not exaggerating when we say these things … people are scared to come back,” she said.
After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005, more than 1,800 people were killed, and about 1.5 million evacuated. Tens of thousands of homes and buildings along the Gulf were destroyed.
Morris’ neighborhood was home to about 14,000 people before the hurricane hit; only about 30 percent have returned to the Lower 9th Ward.
“You think about how things used to be – your neighbors up the street. And in many ways we still haven’t seen a lot of people,” another Lower 9th ward resident, Ben Lemoine, told Al Jazeera.
“There’s people, to this day, I wonder what happened to them, where they are. It’s those question marks in your head that sometimes make you a little sad.”
Katrina caused one of the largest and most abrupt displacements of people in U.S. history – with an estimated 1.5 million people leaving their homes along the Gulf Coast.