Stories shape our past and mold our present. New Orleanians have been retelling Hurricane Katrina disaster stories for a decade——odysseys of helicopter evacuations, ruined homes, and lost loved-ones.
But now we are changing the narrative. With the 10th anniversary of Katrina, New Orleans is hosting exhibits, panel discussions, book-signings, and volunteer projects that highlight the strength of the city. We have learned so much by rebuilding our community.
New Orleans is not without urban challenges, but it's stronger in 2015.
We still love our traditional food, culture, and celebration.
But the city is pulsing with freshness and entrepreneurship!
Back in August 2005, people said New Orleans was finished. And it looked and smelled that way for months, even years. But we did not reach "The End" of this story.
And why not?
Because of our Resilience — which is the message of a new storytelling project and exhibit, "Katrina Voices," on display now and through August 2015 at the Louisiana Children's Museum. Tulane psychologist Dr. Valerie Wajda-Johnston has interviewed local children on video. And with their voices, the museum has included the wisdom of youth to our discussions of regeneration.
"We wanted to hear the voices of our youngest citizens," says Julia Bland, CEO of the museum. "The threads of community, family, and hope that are woven throughout their stories are valuable insights for those of us who work with children and families." The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which supported the project, is also using some of the video footage for a conference on young men of color.
Jarvis, age 10 in 2005
I was struck by the sagacity of these young storytellers when I visited the exhibit and watched the video.
"It's okay to start over," says Brailyn. "Maybe it will be better for you."
"Your plans for your life and life's plans for your life don't always match up...and sometimes that's a good thing," says Maci, who learned this lesson when she was only eleven years old in 2005.
The video, which can be seen here on You Tube, is only one part of the museum's exhibit. Children can also re-imagine the structure of the city and explore its geography through interactive games and displays.
Families can hang hopes for our children on the museum's Promise Tree, which offers an extra upbeat note to the exhibit.
The Louisiana Children's Museum is one of the city's gems. It is a partner in community engagement and a leader in strengthening early childhood development.
It is also a place for fun.
New Orleans wants to prove its resilience and transformation. The Children's Museum is helping the city do that. In 2018, the museum will open its new facility in City Park, which will include an early learning village, a nature center, an edible garden, a cafÉ, and much more.
And that is a sweet ending to a hurricane tale.
The Louisiana Children's Museum is located at 420 Julia Street in New Orleans' Warehouse District. Entrance is $8.50 per person, adults and children. Check its hours of operation here.
For a list of Katrina 10th Anniversary events and volunteer opportunities, click here.