NEW ORLEANS – exactly five years after it hit the Gulf Coast.
Gray skies loomed overhead, threatening a second day of thunderstorms in the region. Many hit hard by Katrina are still reeling from a more recent catastrophe — BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
For many, the mood is one of mourning the 1,800 people killed by the storm that hit Aug. 29, 2005. In New Orleans, the bells will toll at St. Louis Cathedral in honor of the dead. Services also were planned in Shell Beach and St. Bernard Parish — where all but two buildings flooded.
There also will be a focus on healing and rebuilding. A "healing ceremony" and march were planned in the Lower 9th Ward — where only about a quarter of the 5,400 homes that stood in the area before the storm have been rebuilt. Many still bear a constant reminder of Katrina, spray-painted circles indicating they had been searched and whether bodies were inside.
"I'm tired of the anniversaries," Barbara Washington, 77, said Saturday at a symbolic funeral and burial for the storm in Chalmette, La. She lost her home in New Orleans and is now living in a suburb. "I miss my home every day. I feel lost. But I also know we are getting back. We're survivors."
In the afternoon, President Barack Obama will speak at Xavier University — which, like 80 percent of New Orleans, was flooded when the levees failed. He will recall those who died and reassure those who have returned that he is committed to rebuilding.
Other events were planned throughout the region, including a reunion of those who evacuated to the Superdome and memorials in coastal St. Tammany and Plaquemines Parishes.
Residents also spent time on Saturday recalling the chaos after Katrina and celebrating the region's rebirth since. At least two of Saturday's events — a Latin Jazz Festival to note the contribution of Latino immigrants in the city's rebuilding and a multimedia event featuring art, books and films about the storm — were to last until early Sunday.
At the symbolic burial Saturday in Chalmette, mourners filled a steel-gray casket with notes, cards and letters.
One, written by a child in red crayon, said: "Go away from us."