“If you were to take a ride down there today, you would think Hurricane Katrina happened last year, not 10 years ago,” photographer Marissa Williams tells Quartz, referring to New Orleans’ historic Lower Ninth Ward.
August 29, 2015 marks a decade since Katrina wreaked havoc on the city.
Williams was in eighth grade when the storm hit. She remembers being excited about the prospect of missing school during the mandatory evacuation. Her home on New Orleans’ Westbank suffered minor damage but was habitable within two months of the storm.
Others were not so lucky. Nearly all of the predominantly black Lower Ninth Ward was washed away, and may never recover.
According to US census data, in 2014 there were 99,650 fewer African Americans living in Orleans Parish—the geographic area that encompasses the city—than there were in 2000, before the storm hit. In comparison, the area’s white population has declined by only 11,494.
New Orleans overall has shown definite signs of rebound; the total city population has nearly returned to its pre-storm number. However, a 2015 opinion poll by the Kaiser Foundation reveals much about who has benefitted most from that recovery: 70% of white residents polled view the city as “mostly recovered,” while only 44% of their black neighbors do.
“Today, as a young adult, I can say that the cost of renting or buying a home has risen here since the storm,” Williams told Quartz. “The cost of living went up, but the pay didn’t.”
This may be one of the reasons that lower-income areas such as the Lower Ninth Ward remain in critical condition, even 10 years after Katrina. In addition to the Lower Ninth Ward, Williams cites small towns outside of Orleans Parish like Delacroix Island, Louisiana and Phoenix, Louisiana as “still suffering.”
Williams has captured this sustained devastation in her photos, shot in New Orleans East and the Ninth Ward.