Hurricane Katrina museum planned for Gentilly

Flooding during Hurricane Katrina. (Photo: WWL)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WWL-TV) — It’s been eleven years since Hurricane Katrina, but the emotions are still raw for Levees.org founder Sandy Rosenthal.

“One million people were displaced, people’s lives were just thrown apart,” she cried. “Husbands had to stay here while wives went to Houston for their families.”

The scars are still visible in the Gentilly neighborhood where the London Avenue Canal levee failed.

“I didn’t think I was ever coming back, really,” said resident Lonzie Beamon.

Others felt the same way.

“When I came back, I was heartbroken,” added neighbor Kenneth Evans. “We couldn’t get into the neighborhood, there was a house sitting in the middle of the intersection.”

Rosenthal bought a gutted house next to the London Canal breach to turn it into a museum about Katrina, reminding visitors and residents of the dangers of hurricanes.

“I want them to take home that 55 percent of the American population lives in counties protected by levees, and this could have happened to them,” she said.

Rosenthal takes the first step Tuesday to turn this house into a museum, going before the City Planning Commission. It still looks pretty bad in the house, and she’s looking for artists and craftsmen to find a way to recreate what it looked like just after the water subsided.

“Certainly it will include mud covered toppled furniture and mud growing up the walls,” she said.

Rosenthal hopes it will be added to the National Register of Historic Places one day.

“A place to reflect, a place to remember, and also, as I stated earlier, a place to celebrate our resolve,” said City Council District D Member Jared Brossett.

Many residents believe that though the memories are painful, Katrina needs to be memorialized.

“If you don’t preserve it, it’s going to be forgotten,” noted Beamon.

Those who were among the first to return to Gentilly also know the museum will pay tribute to the city.

“New Orleans is where I was born, and New Orleans is where I will die,” summed up Carmen Owens, the first resident to return to the neighborhood.

The City Council will decide whether to approve of the museum plan, but Rosenthal is hoping to have the ribbon cutting by the end of the hurricane season.

To offer ideas to Levees.org founder about turning the gutted house into a museum, email her at Sandy@levees.org

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