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It's hard to comprehend the loss, and as I've come to realize after numerous trips home, television doesn't do it justice. Katrina was no ordinary hurricane, and it will take much more than an ordinary response. According to the American Red Cross, Katrina alone destroyed an estimated 275,000 housing units, nearly 10 times as many as Hurricane Andrew. Five of those homes belonged to my family members.
A few weeks ago Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco called upon me to serve on the Louisiana Recovery Authority. I accepted. We are now working urgently with President George W. Bush, the Louisiana congressional delegation, state and local leaders, Mayor Ray Nagin and parish officials to rebuild the Gulf Coast communities in a way that will give people the confidence to return. That will require a strong hurricane-protection system of safe levees and coastal wetlands, updated building codes so people can reconstruct with a sense of security, business incentives that will create opportunity, and school reforms that will draw people home.
We simply can't afford Katrina fatigue. There's too much work to do.
I am sending something back home this week, something I took years ago when I first moved to Washington. My grandmother's gumbo pot will return to Louisiana, where it belongs. This Thanksgiving I'll be thinking about the people who don't have a Thanksgiving table or a large seasoned pot in which to stir up some delicious gumbo.
I know I speak for the millions of Americans from Louisiana, Mississippi and the other Gulf Coast states when I say we are determined to rebuild our coastal communities down home. We are good people. We add a lot to the life of the nation. We are counting on you not to forget us now that the cameras have moved on.
A native of New Orleans, Donna Brazile is a veteran Democratic political strategist and a regular political commentator on CNN