The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina played out largely on our television screens, with images that seared the nation's collective conscience. Scenes of flooded homes and streets, ravaged buildings and families in peril or in exile inundated viewers and left an indelible impression on many.
Two years later, on a stage inside a Baptist church in Mobile, Ala., teenagers are holding out their hands to lift others from the floor as somber music creates an eerily tragic atmosphere. The youth, including many who were forced from their homes by the wrath and fury of the storm, are using their powers of artistic expression to depict the events and emotions that defined the hurricane for them.
This, too, is part of the aftermath of Katrina—a production titled "Water: When Katrina Came." More than just entertainment for the audience, the play provides an opportunity for the children to learn from each other.
"I call it 'drama therapy,'" says writer and director Diane Cameron. "It allows the children to tell their own story through their own creative expressions."
The production is part of the Youth Enrichment Summer Program at Truevine Baptist Church. It is being made possible, in part, by a grant from the American Red Cross to help children work through the lingering effects of Katrina.
Through its Hurricane Recovery Program, the American Red Cross has sent more than 15,000 young adults to summer camps throughout the Gulf Coast Region. The camps allow participants to experience therapeutic and enrichment activities during the summer months.
"As adults, just watching the news reports and reading the newspapers, it was frightening enough for us," Cameron says. "You can imagine how a child might internalize all of that pain and anger and concern and worry."
Nine-year-old Elizabeth Carey of Prichard, Ala., who lends her amazing singing voice to the show, understands the emotional roller coaster that many children rode during and after Katrina.
"In the beginning, it was an ordinary day," she says. "But when Katrina hit, there was the Red Cross and everyone trying to help people who were suffering and things. And when (Katrina) went through, everyone was happy because it was gone and it wouldn't come back again."