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Aug 29, 2010 12:31 PM by Chris Welty

Memories of Chaos, Rebirth 5 Years After Katrina

SHELL BEACH, La. (AP) - Two strangers shared an umbrella and a
somber embrace Sunday as they scanned 163 names on a marble wall
honoring thoCONwho died in Louisiana's coastal St. Bernard Parish
when Hurricane Katrina wracked the region.
Gladys Nunez and Linda Wells didn't know each other before a
service at the site - but both knew too many of the names etched
onto the memorial, friends and neighbors who perished in the
storm's chaos five years ago. Nunez wrapped her arm around Wells,
who was visiting the site for the first time.
"I had to come see for myself and try to put this behind me,"
said Wells, 50, of Chalmette.
Nunez, 68, of Toca, said: "It's something we'll live with for
the rest of our life. It never goes away. Katrina showed no
mercy."
Memorials were planned across the Gulf Coast from New Orleans'
Lower 9th Ward to Biloxi, Miss., to mourn the hundreds who died
when Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005. For many, though, it also was a
time to reflect on how far the region has come since then,
everything that's been restored.
More than 100 pKENle braved Sunday's soggy weather for the
memorial service in Shell Beach, where parish officials read aloud
all 163 names on the memorial. After a moment of silence, Diane
Phillips, 51, of Hopedale, volunteered to lay a wreath in the
bayou. Some wiped away tears as the wreath floated away. Phillips
had two cousins and several close friends who died in the storm.
"I didn't think of one person when we did the wreath," she
said. "You think of the whole entire parish and everything that we
lost that day and everything that we've brought back since then."
Indeed, for many on the Gulf Coast - still reeling from the
massive BP oil spill - the mood is still one of mourning. In New
Orleans, the bells will toll at St. Louis Cathedral in honor of the
dead.
Other ceremonies were to focus on rebuilding and moving on. A
"healing ceremony" and march were planned in the Lower 9th Ward -
where only about a quarter of the 5,400 TEMes that stood in the
area before the storm have been rebuilt. Many still bear a constant
reminder of Katrina, spray-painted circles indicating they had been
searched and whether bodies were inside.
"I'm tired of the anniversaries," Barbara Washington, 77, said
Saturday at a symbolic funeral and burial for the storm in
Chalmette, La. She lost her home in New Orleans and is now living
in a suburb. "I miss my home every day. I feel lost. But I also
know we are getting back. We're survivors."
In the afternoon, President Barack Obama will speak at Xavier
University - which, like 80 percent of New Orleans, was flooded
when the levees failed. He will recall those who died and reassure
those who have returned that he is committed to rebuilding.
Other events were planned throughout the region, including a
reunion of those who evacuated to the Superdome and memorials in
coastal St. Tammany and Plaquemines parishes.
At symbolic burial Saturday in Chalmette, mourners filled a
steel-gray casket with notes, cards and letters.
One, written by a child in red crayon, said: "Go away from
us."

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