Since Hurricane Katrina, Beverly Connelly D’03 is perpetually asked : “Do you think God did this to New Orleans?”
“This is not a question I answer,” she says. “It is not a question for humankind.”
News coverage of Katrina’s first anniversary took a heavy toll, says Beverly. “I was surprised at how easily my own tears flowed as I watched old broadcasts. In some ways it feels like the events happened yesterday. In others, it seems a lifetime ago. Regardless, those affected will surely never forget.”
During the 2006 hurricane season, Connelly and her husband, Joe, kept an anxious watch on forecasts. “Even though we no longer live close to the coastal waters, we trembled at the very thought.”
The Connellys returned to Louisiana from Wylie, Texas, where they had fled ahead of Katrina, and then continued to live after the storm crippled New Orleans, where Joe pastored two United Methodist churches.
Between them, the Connellys now minister at four churches and a counseling center. Joe leads churches in Shreveport and Mansfield; Beverly pastors two churches in Mansfield and also does counseling at a medical ministry in Shreveport.
“Many of our friends from New Orleans are still living in the FEMA trailers, which have had constant problems...from break-ins (after someone discovered the same key fits several trailers) to fires,” says Beverly. “Other friends have rebuilt homes and are finally living in them again.”
Connelly says that the New Orleans school system has changed—in some ways for the better, but that some schools will probably never re-open.
Stores in parts of the city, particularly in East New Orleans, were still not open in December, leaving residents traveling long distances for groceries, gas and even fast food.
“United Methodist churches are also scarce in New Orleans. The United Methodist Church is using the cluster concept, and congregations share a building and often a service, with pastors working in teams.
The Connellys are thankful for the generosity of the many mission teams and donations from throughout the country and the world. “People have been generous with their time and supplies for the cleanup of homes and church sites,” says Beverly. “And mission teams from everywhere have come in to help.”
An exhibit of “The Faces of Katrina” at a Shreveport art museum reminds Beverly of the lingering sadness. “I see the billboard advertisement, but can’t bring myself to go. In some sense, I know I will see my own reflection in those faces. Worse is the real possibility that I may see the actual faces of friends and co-workers.”