As someone who had just entered the seventh grade when Hurricane Katrina occurred, I have definitely learned a lot more about the real magnitude of the situation through our readings and discussions in class. The discussion about the diaspora in particular made me realize that this disaster, which I had never really looked into before, had so many ripple-like effects that I actually witnessed firsthand.
I am from Dallas, TX and attended a public school in the Plano Independent School District. As I was reading about the massive displacement of people from New Orleans to the nearby states, I had a sudden vivid memory of a particular day in early September. I had just stepped onto the school bus when I realized that there were about twice as many people sitting on the bus as usual, and I did not recognize any of them. The same thing kept happening during the rest of the day; more and more new kids were showing up, shyly introducing themselves in all of my classes. My teachers explained that they were joining us from New Orleans, where Hurricane Katrina had just hit. I remember there were murmurs of sympathy throughout the room but no one, myself included, really comprehended how devastated the city was by the floodwaters. However, looking at the number alone, it becomes clear how widespread the effects were. About 372,000 students were displaced from Louisiana and of that number, 12% (46,000) ended up enrolling in schools across Texas. Dallas-area school districts enrolled around 4,292 students, and 682 of those students attended Plano ISD schools like the one I went to. Congressman Sam Johnson, representing Dallas and surrounding counties, stated that: “The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has shown us what Americans are made of. We want to help those who can’t help themselves. There are countless Hurricane Hero stories. Our schools are no different. It’s time we say thank you for all they are doing to help folks rebuild their lives,” said Johnson.”( Source)
To educate my naïve 12-year-old self about the efforts that schools in my district were performing to raise money and awareness for Katrina, I dug through the old news archives of the Plano ISD website. I was immediately impressed by all of the organizations that were working to raise money and supplies for the victims from the elementary school all the way up to the senior high school level. (Source) I even remembered dutifully lugging a box full of water bottles and school supplies to class one day to donate to the cause; a mini-competition developed among the homeroom classes as to who could gather the most Katrina donations by the end of the month. While efforts like this may have seemed small at the time, recognizing the ability of school districts such as mine to lend a helping hand show both an awareness of the situation and willingness to help the victims return to a normal life.