Despair and Hope

This week I traveled to New Orleans for a conference. I've been trying to find the words to describe it all and words fail me. First I saw the French Quarter, once so vibrant and full of musicians and life...faded. Faded is the word I found because there was music in the air and some tourists in the streets, but also many buildings for sale and many under renovation.

Moving every so gently downhill toward the water, the city is no longer faded. It's devastated. I saw miles upon miles of empty homes all with the "New Orleans Tattoo." In this house here, the AZ crew couldn't get in as the water was too high (thus the NE--no entry). After the water retreated, they found someone in the right apartment. The roof as an ax hole where the residents on the left had managed to get out.

It's two years later and still the homes sit empty, some still full. There are entire strip malls sitting empty with grass growing up through the parking lots. There is just one grocery store that opened only a couple of months ago. The only store open amongst all the big boxes is....yup....Home Depot. The hospitals sit abandoned. The schools remain abandoned.

The people of St. Bernard's Parish are still living in travel trailers. This photo is of their community-- a parking lot around a boarded up city hall.

Two years later, you can still see scenes like this. There are signs for trauma counseling and many, many real estate signs.

There are signs of hope. Habitat for Humanity has built dozens of these homes in the lower 9th Ward. I've always had respect for Habitat for Humanity, but now I see the incredible work they've done here.

I have learned a lot on this trip--I've learned how historically significant New Orleans is to the story of our country. I've learned how important this major port is to our Nation's economy. I've learned how politicized our nation is over protecting the environment. Most importantly, I've learned how much the people of New Orleans truly love their city and somehow seem to have found the strength to continue on even after the rest of America has allowed it to fade from the national consciousness. Somehow America has to remember again, be made aware of what still needs to be done and what is still very much threatened. If we don't, our past, present, and future will become a muddy swirl.

I sit here in an airport with one entire terminal darkened. No shops OR COFFEE. A 1/2 empty plane. And yet, there is hope and joy, great music and food, and incredible passion for this city.

heather –   – (October 20, 2007 at 7:07 PM)  

i don't even have the words to comment, but i'm so grateful you shared.

Susan  – (October 25, 2007 at 11:16 PM)  

Wow. I am so glad that you posted about your experience in New Orleans. It's hard to believe that two years have passed since Katrina, and heartbreaking to realize how little progress has been made. This is America, after all! I wonder about all of the monetary donations that were given to help the victims of Katrina. Is it all gone? Was it spent to help the resdients rebuild their lives?

When I consider that our government is spending 7 billion dollars per MONTH on the war in Iraq when our own countrymen are in need...I am just so sad.

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