With the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaching on August 29, New Orleans singer and songwriter Susan Cowsill has joined with other voices of the St. Bernard Project to raise awareness about what still needs to be accomplished as New Orleans rebuilds and looks to the future. The St. Bernard Project is a grassroots nonprofit rebuilding organization whose mission is to remove barriers for families who want to return home. Its services include a Rebuilding Program, a Senior Housing Program and a Community Health and Wellness Center.
Donations from volunteers, faith-based groups, individuals and grants from foundations, corporations, and civic groups sustain the foundation. Some of our significant donors include the United Way, GE Foundation, Tide, Starfish Group, Newman’s Own Foundation, the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way, Winn Dixie, Entergy, and the Braveheart Foundation.
In the years before Katrina, insurance companies rezoned St Bernard out of the flood plain, so most residents no longer had flood insurance after decades of paying for it. Then Katrina hit, and the people of St Bernard lost everything. Seventy-five percent of families were under- or uninsured, according to project organizers.
After Katrina hit 100% of the homes in St. Bernard Parish were rendered uninhabitable and St. Bernard had standing water of 4 to 20 feet for up to 4 weeks. Only one-third of residents have been able to move back, with the vast majority of returned residents still living in FEMA trailers or attics that were above the waterline.
Besides losing her home and possessions in the storm waters, Susan Cowsill also lost her brother Barry to drowning. The siblings are members the Cowsills, a sixties family pop group that not only scored Top Ten singles “The Rain the Park and Other Things”, “Hair” and “We Can Fly” but also served as the real-life inspiration for TV’s fictional The Partridge Family.
Katrina’s storm surge caused 53 different levee breaches in greater New Orleans and submerged eighty percent of the city. The storm surge also devastated the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama, making Katrina the most destructive and costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. Damage estimates from Katrina approach $82 billion. As of 2006, the confirmed death toll stood at 1,836, mainly from Louisiana (1,577) and Mississippi (238). 705 people officially remain categorized as missing in Louisiana but the suggested death toll is much higher.
Susan Cowsill still calls New Orleans home and lives there with her husband and children.
Contact: Canewoman Press