Group Plans to Make Vacant Louisiana Home a Hurricane Katrina Memorial

By JANET McCONNAUGHEY | August 12, 2016

A house that was flooded by Hurricane Katrina could become a memorial to the catastrophic storm that nearly wiped New Orleans off the map 11 years ago.

The city planning commission will consider a request by the group for a permit to preserve the house at a meeting on Tuesday, according to group founder Sandy Rosenthal. She said the house is likely the closest left standing near any of the three spots where levees broke, pouring water into the city.

Aerial photograph from one of the first New Orleans fly overs showing the flooding as a result of the breeched levees
Aerial photograph from one of the first New Orleans fly overs showing the flooding as a result of the breached levees

The one-story brick house is still vacant, with gaping holes in a back wall and roof.

Rosenthal says she wants the exterior to look as it did just after the city was pumped dry, with a re-creation of a moldy, flood-upturned living room visible through the front windows.

Glenn Corbett, a New York fire safety professor who testified before the congressional 9/11 commission, said in a phone interview Monday that he believes the project is “an incredibly valuable thing and unique. Nobody’s done this.”

Corbett, who suggested the project to Rosenthal, said that as far as he knows, this will be the first time someone has preserved “a piece of disaster history … so people can look at it, get close to it, see what happened.”

Corbett said that after 9/11, many people assumed that the only parts of the World Trade Center remaining above ground – three crazily leaning sections of facade and exterior beams – would be stabilized in place as part of a memorial. Instead, he said, the 8-acre site was swept clean.

Rosenthal’s group, created to push for reforms in levee building and oversight, also has had plaques installed at the levee breaches and created a memorial garden in the vacant lot next door to the one-story brick house which she bought in April.

“We cannot squander the opportunity to preserve this relic, this insight,” she said at a news conference in front of the one-story brick house, still vacant 11 years after the storm.

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