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Perimeter to hold symposium on Hurricane Katrina

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

COVINGTON -- Georgia Perimeter College's Newton Campus is taking a look back at the upheaval caused by Hurricane Katrina, both in New Orleans and locally.

The college is hosting a three-day symposium titled, "New Orleans -- Before and After Katrina," Oct. 4, 6 and 7, which will include speeches, student panel discussions, film screenings, New Orleans cuisine and a concert in the Crescent City's celebrated jazz tradition.

"Every American has a connection to New Orleans. The city is part of our cultural consciousness," said Laura Edmunds, English instructor at GPC, who has organized the event. "We've all listened to jazz, eaten Cajun food, watched the Saints, read a Tennessee Williams play, watched a vampire movie or dreamed of partying at Mardi Gras. We all have a connection to this city."

She said she was inspired after attending a conference in New Orleans and finding what she described as a "paradox" in the city.

"There's been tremendous recovery in the business district and in the French Quarter. You would never know there had been a flood," she said. "But the lower Ninth Ward is completely empty, either washed away or demolished," she said. "It's not for me to say whether this is good or bad, one area empty and one area rebuilt, but I thought the paradox was a great opportunity for conversation for students. I'm an educator. I'm not giving anybody the answer, I want the students to get the answers for themselves."

Edmunds said the idea of looking back on the 5-year-old disaster has caught on among her colleagues and the students seem to be enthusiastic, as well.

"There's been a lot of interest and tremendous faculty support. They're incorporating information into classes and giving students assignments that let them explore ideas (concerning Katrina)," she said.

She said she is hopeful that students will use the opportunity to develop their research skills, pointing out that because there was so much technology available for news coverage, there is a wealth of information available.

Edmunds said she realizes that the impact of Katrina was felt locally as Newton Countians hosted evacuees, hundreds of whom came through the FFA-FCCLA camp, and residents and churches held fundraisers and traveled to New Orleans to offer aid. She said there are several students at GPC who evacuated with their families and are now Georgia residents.

Among those participating in the symposium will be GPC history professor George Pabis, who will deliver two keynote speeches: One on why Hurricane Katrina was so devastating to New Orleans and another on what is being done so that kind of damage won't happen again. Pabis is an expert on the Mississippi River and has published two books on the subject.

Three student panels and a poster presentation will explore images after Katrina, New Orleans ghost stories, the city's architecture and sports affected by Katrina. There will be film screenings of Spike Lee's 2006 documentary, "When the Levees Broke," and the feature films "Interview with a Vampire" and "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Some symposium events will be festive. Everyone at GPC Newton is invited to patronize Covington's authentic New Orleans restaurant, RL's off the Square. Back on the campus, Lake Trio with guest trumpeter Greg McLean will perform a new Orleans jazz concert.