Mayor Mitch Landrieu marked the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Thursday at the edge of Cypress Grove Cemetery on Canal Street, claiming the nearly 100 unclaimed victims of the storm that are buried there on behalf of the city and drawing a symbolic parallel between New Orleans’ struggle to recover and the Civil Rights movement.
A day after the country marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the mayor compared those lost to the flooding with those who marched for equal rights, hailing undeniable progress and unavoidable work ahead.
“We lost everything we had, it was wiped away from us and we had a choice to make,” Landrieu said. “We could fall down, we could quit, we could stop, or we could stand fast, stick our pole in the ground and declare that what we had was so special that it would be a sin not to build it back better than it ever was.”
Landrieu said, “There is no denying that today the city of New Orleans and its people are stronger, we are better, we are more strongly protected and we have a stronger foundation going forward.”
Then, slipping into the famous lines of Robert Frost, he continued, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but we have promises to keep and we have miles to go before we sleep.”
The mayor, joined by City Council members LaToya Cantrell, Susan Guidry and other dignitaries, spoke at the memorial established by local funeral home owners at the foot of Canal Street — a commemorative plaque surrounded by six free-standing sections of mausoleum in the shape of a hurricane’s ominous spiral.
Alluding to the dead interred there, Landrieu said, “The mountain is high, the burden is heavy, but I have no doubt that if the people of New Orleans would come together today and claim our brothers and our sisters and live in their spirit and live in their hope, we can make sure that their lives will not have been lived in vain.”