NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Along the Gulf Coast on Friday, emotional ceremonies, memorials and speeches marked the ninth anniversary of the landfall of Hurricane Katrina, the catastrophic storm that killed more than 1,800 people.
Dr. Jeffrey Rouse, the New Orleans coroner, recalled the horror that gripped the city after federal levees gave way, leading to disastrous flooding.
"Their last moments on this earth were filled with terror and disbelief that they were going to actually drown on Gentilly Boulevard, in their own attics," said Rouse, who was elected the city's new coroner this year. He said the unidentified dead serve as "the conscience of this city" as it continues to rebuild.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Julian Castro, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, also took part in the ceremony, at a cemetery where scores of unidentified or unclaimed Katrina bodies are entombed.
The city's population took a big hit after Katrina. The Data Center, an independent organization that gathers facts about southeast Louisiana, says Census figures show New Orleans with an estimated population of 378,715 as of mid-2013. That's 78 percent of its 2000 population of 484,674.
Some neighborhoods, notably the hard-hit, low-income Lower 9th Ward — the scene of more memorials Friday — have been slow to recover. Still, 38 of New Orleans' 72 neighborhoods have recovered 90 percent of their June 2005 population, and 17 neighborhoods have more population than they did in June 2005, the Data Center says, based on data from households receiving mail.
"New Orleans and Louisiana are coming back better than ever — stronger than we could have imagined," Gov. Bobby Jindal said in a news release.
In Mississippi, memorials included a series of events at the Ground Zero Museum in Waveland.
"It forever changed the landscape of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and lives for countless families that were permanently displaced," Gov. Phil Bryant said in a news release. "Since that time, Mississippians have shown incredible strength, resilience, and a caring spirit for their neighbor while building back the Gulf Coast stronger than before Hurricane Katrina."