As Hurricane Laura barrels into the Gulf Coast, New Orleans is preparing to mark the 15th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Saturday. But unlike the storm’s 10th anniversary, when current and former presidents visited and the city drew international attention, the commemorations this year will be understated, mainly because of the coronavirus pandemic.
New Orleans has been slammed by the virus, which has killed nearly 600 New Orleans residents so far, and sickened thousands more. Mardi Gras, the city’s signature event, fell in the early days of the pandemic and has been blamed for an eruption of cases in Louisiana.
The mayor, LaToya Cantrell, is planning to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the site of one of the places where the city’s levees were breached by Katrina, swamping much of New Orleans, but there is nothing else formally planned by the city.
An annual ceremonial march that usually ends in a large rally is going forward, but will be livestreamed so “if you’re sick or have Covid you can stay home and just watch it online,” said Sess 4-5, a hip-hop artist who organized the march.
Robert Green Sr., who lives in the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood and lost his mother and a granddaughter in the floods from Katrina, planned processions in past years and initially had ambitious ideas for this year’s edition. He invited people from across the country who had come to New Orleans over the past decade and a half to help rebuild homes.
The procession is still happening, but without the out-of-town guests.
“Weather’s not going to be an issue,” Mr. Green said. “Covid is going to change the way that we do it.” Still, he added, “every family that lost something is going to remember that day. It’s not going to go by the wayside.”
Reporting was contributed by Katie Benner, Katrin Bennhold, Alan Blinder, Chelsea Brasted, Aurelien Breeden, Alexander Burns, Michael Cooper. Jill Cowan, Abdi Latif Dahir, Reid J. Epstein, Steven Erlanger, Christina Goldbaum, Lauren Hirsch, Shawn Hubler, Choe Sang-Hun, Mike Ives, Andrew Jacobs, Julia Jacobs, Isabella Kwai, Alex Lemonides, Patrick J. Lyons, Apoorva Mandavilli, Jonathan Martin, Patricia Mazzei, Jesse McKinley, Heather Murphy, Elian Peltier, Elisabetta Povoledo, Adam Rasgon, Campbell Robertson, Rick Rojas, Simon Romero, Amanda Rosa, Anna Schaverien, Mitch Smith, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Eileen Sullivan, Tracey Tully, Neil Vigdor, Billy Witz and Katherine J. Wu.