Remember and RejoiceSep 12th, 2011 | By William Dilella | Category: News
The pageantry of the annual Day of Reflection Breakfast took place on the six year anniversary of Katrina’s landfall, one day after the solemn ceremony at Shell Beach commemorating that event. On the beach, the monument for the over 160 parish residents lost in the storm was rededicated. Loved ones of those lost were present, along with members of parish government, to lay down a new wreath, as the anniversary rekindled a never quite quelled grief.
“We have said for some time now that there is much to be done and something for everyone to do,” Parish President Craig Taffaro said. “That certainly has not changed, and as we turn the corner on another year, it is comforting to know that we will make it… and we remember all those who have passed on as a result of Katrina and her aftermath.”
The quiet reflection brought out many emotions, offering a galvanizing effect on the dedication of all people in the parish, to remember what has occurred and what they work for.
However, the Shell Beach Day of Remembrance was distinctly contrasted by the breakfast held on the actual anniversary of the storm. A more festive event, the look back this year focused on the triumphs and leadership the parish saw during stark and bleak tragedy.
Present for the breakfast celebration were Parish Government and Sheriff’s officials, actively campaigning hopefuls, local state Representatives Nita Hutter and Reed Henderson with neighboring representative J.P. Morrel, and United States Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Landrieu was introduced by two members of the current Chalmette High School student body, Jesus Perez and Sophie Boudreaux, who narrated the program for the crowd of over 600 filling the school’s auditorium.
These very school’s, Landrieu said, were the crowning achievement of the the recovery, and a key start to the rebuilding effort, as they were ready for students just eleven weeks after the parish flooded.
“They offered a sense of comfort and structure [for students and parents],” Landrieu said. “For those communities effected by Irene, start with the schools.”
When the speakers finished their statements, two prepared videos were offered (one spoof of Back to the Future and the other for the Amazing Race television series) showcased the school board, Nunez Community College, the sheriff’s office, fire department, and parish government who were all part of the recovery. Funny escapades six years later, but tragic circumstances those years before.
The crowd watched on, chatting amongst themselves. The social nature of the event brought together many displaced residents, who evacuated and never had the opportunity to permanently return, but for several years have made the annual trek back, to remember. Living in the parish or not, these members still call St. Bernard Parish home.
Claire Roy-Landry was up and out of her Baton Rouge home by 5:45 a.m. to make the breakfast.
“You could feel the heart of St. Bernard here,” Landry said. “How great it is to come back and see people you haven’t seen in over a year…it’s still home, it will always be home.”
Those who had returned after the storm were also in the crowd, many who count how long they’ve been in St. Bernard by decades instead of single years. Elma Espadron, or “Queenie” as she is called by her family, is a Violet resident. Espadron is 88-years-old with nearly six decades lived in Parish.
“It’s beautiful, I’ve been here every year for this,” said Espadron.
Others in the Parish present for the ceremony were proud of the achievements these six years have offered, but see plenty of progress still to be made.
“The ways of the Parish are still the same,” said Silvia Lewis. “They’ve rebuilt homes, but they never rebuilt some relationships…it is still a club, with the exception of a select few.”
However, Lewis is confident that things can and will change for the better as more work is done.
That was the overall tone of the breakfast, focus on the future and let the terror of the past storm recede into our memories, never forgotten, but a part of how the parish, in years to come, became something better, greater for the effort.