Mausoleum and Monument Planned for Katrina Victims

Artist Rendition of the Planned Memorial
Artist Rendition of the Planned Memorial

Our state has been living with the tragic memory of Hurricane Katrina for one year and eight months. And that's how long the bodies of nearly 100 victims have gone unburied. Now, there's finally a plan. Tuesday, the Orleans Parish coroner unveiled plans to end the stigma of human bodies not laid to rest. The coroner says he knows who most of the people are. He says the problem is in some cases, the families won't claim the bodies.

It is a problem Orleans Parish coroner Dr. Frank Minyard says he had even before the storm. But with 100 caskets still left, it's disturbing where these bodies are still lying, many months after Katrina. Dr. Minyard says, "In a place on Poydras Street, like an old warehouse." An old warehouse is where 100 Katrina victims rest these days. 70 of them are identified and unclaimed. 30 more are unidentified. No one seems to care.

Jim Shannon asks, "Has there been any public outcry at all the fact that these bodies have been just literally sitting there for months and months and months?" Dr. Minyard says, "No. There's been no public outcry and that worries me because I think the public is forgetting about Katrina victims. I wish there was more of them public outcry."

But Minyard is trying to raise support for a Katrina memorial and mausoleum. He says the people should do something because family members of the victims simply don't bother, or don't have the means, to claim their loved ones. He says, "We have located their loved ones and they won't come pick 'um up. This is a chronic problem I had before the storm, but it's exacerbated by the storm."

A $1.5 million memorial/mausoleum, shaped liked a hurricane, is planned for a site at the foot of Canal Street. It's flanked by other cemeteries and is easily accessible by public transportation. Members of the memorial board liken it to other public memorials. Gerald Schoen says, "I look at this more as our similar "Ground Zero" in New York. New Orleans is famous for our cemeteries. I mean the way we care for our dead defines our society."

The group behind mausoleum and memorial hopes to gather $1.5 million in donations to build it. The LSU Board of Supervisors authorized its president to move forward in obtaining the property on Canal Street.