Memorial Symbolizes New Orleans' Rebirth After Hurricane Katrina

Friday, August 28th 2015, 8:18 am
By: News On 6

When Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Gulf Coast, it left a large trail of death and destruction, especially in New Orleans.  

More than 1,800 people were killed in New Orleans. One of those killed was Vera Smith, whose body was lying on the sidewalk for days.

Ten years later her memory is still very much a part of New Orleans.

There is a makeshift grave nearby for a 66-year-old woman who died during the chaos that followed Katrina.  

"When I saw Miss Vera laying just 15 feet from us here, I, that admonition from catechism, you know, 'Bury the dead,'" said John Lee.  

A decade later, my old friend John Lee returned to the corner of Jackson and Magazine Streets where residents had had enough. Vera's body was left decaying on the street for four days after a possible hit and run. Emergency responders were too busy tending to the living.  

John Lee and others finally took matters into their own hands.

"Miss Vera was not only an indignity, you know a human indignity, but she was a health hazard," said John Lee.

Now a memorial decorated by a local artist stands at the intersection as a reminder.

"She became kind of a symbol for all of us of the things that happened that nobody had a good explanation for," said store owner, Yvette Rutledge.  

This symbol of destruction also represents how New Orleans rallied.

"It was a time of people helping people with food, water, protection and burying the dead," said John Lee.  

Lee wrote a book about Vera Smith and protected his home from looters after Katrina with just a shotgun. The book is "Our Sleepless Nights, Surviving Katrina."