NEW ORLEANS — Returning here Friday 10 years after this city was inundated, former President George W. Bush painted a rosy picture of the recovery since Hurricane Katrina, saying that the devastation had “sparked a decade of reform” in public schools and declaring, “New Orleans is back, and better than ever.”
Visiting one of the schools that became a charter in those early years after the storm, Mr. Bush focused on education, citing the failings of the city’s public schools before Hurricane Katrina, and the marked improvement since. “Isn’t it amazing? The storm nearly destroyed New Orleans and yet, now, New Orleans is the beacon for school reform,” he said.
Mr. Bush did not address what made the flooding a rich target for critics of his administration: the weakness of the initial response to the disaster, when federal, state and city agencies were widely seen as doing far too little to help the stranded and displaced, and doing it much too slowly.
Many New Orleans residents make the distinction between those horrific first days and what was eventually a robust federal rebuilding effort — a difference Mr. Bush himself noted in his memoir, “Decision Points.” “I should have recognized the deficiencies sooner and intervened faster,” he wrote.
Interactive Feature | 10 Years After Katrina The New Orleans of 2015 has been altered, and not just by nature. In some ways, it is booming as never before. In others, it is returning to pre-Katrina realities of poverty and violence, but with a new sense of dislocation for many, too.
“All of us who are old enough to remember will never forget the images of our fellow Americans amid a sea of misery and ruin,” Mr. Bush said Friday. But twice, he said, “I hope you remember what I remember,” citing the work of military personnel, law enforcement and thousands of volunteers in rescuing, feeding, sheltering and rebuilding.
“In spite of the devastation, we have many fond memories,” he added, recalling sitting with Russel L. Honoré, the retired Army lieutenant general who coordinated the military response to the storm, “on top of one of those big ships, strategizing.”
Mr. Bush received an enthusiastic response from several hundred dignitaries, students and school staff members in the auditorium of Warren Easton Charter High School, on …Read More