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Dems continue Katrina tour

NEW ORLEANS (AP)— Hurricane Katrina’s flood waters washed Valeria Schexnayder’s home away nearly two years ago and now a government-issued trailer sits on her lot while she seeks aid, she told a group of congressional Democrats on Tuesday.

“This was not my fault. I’m 60 years old. I can’t go through much more stress,” a teary-eyed Schexnayder said after telling her story to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Their meeting took place in the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the areas hit hardest when Katrina flooded 80 percent of the city.

She said among her problems is the slow pace of dealing with the federally funded, state-run agency that is supposed to provide rebuilding money to storm victims.

Schexnayder got a hug from Pelosi and an assurance, made by the speaker many times during the tour: “We’re listening.”

It was the second day of a two-day tour by a delegation of 13 House Democrats undertaken as the second anniversary of the Aug. 29, 2005, storm approached. They toured the Mississippi Gulf Coast on Monday.

Tuesday morning, the group visited classrooms on the first day of school in New Orleans and heard about problems still facing the battered education system nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina.

Pelosi spoke briefly with a group of fifth-graders about the Constitution as she thumbed through a social studies book. “We’re in your book. We’re in Washington. Come see us,” she told the students at Mary McLeod Bethune Accelerated School.

Higher post-hurricane construction costs, federal aid bureaucracy and continued uncertainty about how many students will eventually return to the city are among the problems outlined by New Orleans schools Superintendent Darryl Kilbert.

as House members toured the school.

The pre-K through sixth-grade school was considered neglected even before the storm flooded it with more than four feet of water. Now, with enrollment expected to reach 350, the school still lacks playground equipment.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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