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Friday, September 29, 2023

Event held to raise awareness about Hurricane Katrina

Jon Bennett witnessed the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina firsthand and has not forgotten it.

Bennett, a UF junior from New Orleans and Reitz Union Board president, has spent the last six months creating an opportunity for UF students to examine the impact of Hurricane Katrina. "New Orleans: The City the World Forgot" is a free event on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Reitz Union Rion Ballroom that Bennett hopes will give students a glimpse into New Orleans and the issues it faces.

Hurricane Katrina is still relevant, Bennett said, because the city is not completely better, and the levees are still not up to code.

The event includes presentations from speakers, boxed lunches for participants, discussion on how to become involved and a question-and-answer forum.

Two speakers from the city will share their stories, and a UF student who has researched the disaster aftermath extensively will speak, Bennett said.

Chris Rose, a speaker at the event, is a columnist from The Times-Picayune and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His best-selling book, "1 Dead in Attic: After Katrina," is a compilation of newspaper articles that describe personal experiences after the hurricane.

Bennett said Rose's articles show the pain and the suffering that people from New Orleans felt, while still keeping their dedication and love for the city.

The other speaker from New Orleans, Capt. Mark Willow from the city's police department, will discuss his experiences during the rescue effort with a severely understaffed police force.

UF student Casey Anderson will also speak on Saturday. Anderson was a University Scholar from 2006 to 2007 and researched how communication affected the Hurricane Katrina relief process.

He distributed surveys to Louisiana officials to rate their perceptions of effective communication. He hopes the research results will help governments create better communication between leaders of different government divisions to respond to natural disasters in the future.

His paper, "Hurricane Katrina and the Pony Express: Intergovernmental Communication after the Storm," describes the problem with just having couriers as the sole form of communication after the hurricane.

Anderson found from his surveys that New Orleans officials said on average the Federal Emergency Management Agency took 10 days to respond to their messages or requests, the same amount of time it took for a mail carrier to carry a message across the entire country on horseback.

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The event is co-sponsored by the Reitz Union Board and the UF Honors Program.

"The event was put together on a shoestring budget," said Sheila Dickison, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "We asked the two speakers to find the cheapest flight, and they will stay in the Reitz Hotel."

Dickison did not give exact figures for the event's budget.

Dickison said these are the types of events honors programs should really get involved with because they get students to think about important issues.

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