Louisiana residents rid grief in symbolic Hurricane Katrina burial

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CHALMETTE, La. (AP) — Hundreds of mourners have dropped notes, cards and letters into a steel-gray casket in a symbolic burial of Hurricane Katrina.

One letter written by a child in red crayon said: “Go away from us.” Other notes remembered the 1,800 victims of Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and other areas five years ago.

When the casket was finally closed, people applauded. Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond says he has been to many funerals but this was the first time he had heard applause when the casket was closed.

The casket, along with some of the anger, grief and frustration, was later interred under an appropriately dark sky as rain pounded umbrellas.

“I asked for no more suffering, for everything to come back to where it was,” Walter Gifford, 47, said of his note. He rebuilt his home and moved back to the area near New Orleans. “I ask for the sadness for so many to end.”

The church that celebrated the Mass, Our Lady of Prompt Succor, was flooded five years ago just like all but two buildings in St. Bernard Parish.

“I cried a lot while I wrote my letter,” said Nancy Volpe, 61, who moved back into her house in November. “But I’m finally home. I can’t tell you how much better I know the meaning of that word – home.”

When the casket was finally closed, people applauded.