I remember driving out of New Orleans that day and listening to the radio. We had a satellite radio and so had coverage up until the storm hit the city. The main thrust of FEMA was that they would be there for New Orleans until the bitter end. That they had emergency trailer camps throughout the United States still and they would rebuild New Orleans. The government was going to be there to reimburse, rebuild and make sure our city could be habitable again. Money was thrown around in those first few months like it was going out of style. Texas gave us food cards, I got relocation checks, got aide from the Red Cross, was promised free medical care anywhere I went (though I did have insurance) and all sorts of things. The United States was right there behind us and it felt great. Then, I'd say about two months after, everything just stopped.
This paying back situation isn't the first we've heard. I've been told multiple times that I might have to pay back the money I received. Letter after letter came to my parents about proof of residency and damage inspections. My mother and father stayed during the storm because they were required to by their jobs, yet they had the hardest time getting any money. The aide has gone from being a assistance, to a gift, to a loan, and then finally to a mistake. Hospitals in this area are no longer being reimbursed for staying open during the storm and for taking thousands of uninsured. My own hospital has been operating in the red since the storm, because the state and federal government refuse to acknowledge the flood of uninsured. (Course that is what they say while buying up every vacant hospital in the area, but still denying us our raises.) Without Charity Hospital, private hospitals have to take those patients.
The Road Home program was a crap-shoot since it came about. A golden promise if someone could jump through the hoops fast enough. So many politicians and companies have dipped their hands into that program, I'm amazed to even hear its name. Alot of people applied without the hope of getting anything. Hell, my parents were happy they didn't own a house yet when that program started. I'm not surprised that program took a hit and not surprised that the golden promise is dying in flames. New Orleans politics at its finest. Maybe that sounds bitter, but after so many years of false promises and dangled carrots...you just stop depending on them.
As for people getting out, you have to remember the year before. Last hurricane season before Katrina had so many false alarms, that people were packing up almost every week. The city was evacuated about three times I believe with even more recommended evacuations. Looters destroyed homes and stores, so people were tired. Poor people cashed in their savings that year and people lived through the fear regularly. By the end of that season, people would've stayed if God himself had told them to go. So I wasn't surprised by the resistance to Katrina. Heck, I stayed up until my dad grabbed my shoulder and shoved me in a car. Guess that was when I got hit by the severity of the whole thing. Didn't really think I would see them again. Anyway...nobody really thought the city would fall and it didn't, until the levees broke.
Nobody thought they would break. Even after the event, people thought someone had blown them up. That is how foreign it is in our minds. The levees don't break, they're massive walls of earth. They survive no matter what. People would have told you before Katrina that only a bomb could takes those levees out, that they would be here after New Orleans was dust. I remember playing on them when I was a little girl, remember having picnics on them with my friends, sunbathing on them after school, running on them while I was in college and watching the rising waters after a bad rain storm from ontop of them. People built their houses right up against them, lived their entire lives in their shadow. They weren't supposed to break.