Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Visit Home 10 Months After Katrina

I went back to New Orleans a couple of weeks ago for a wedding. I hadn't been there since May of 2005. I knew the city was devastated, but the actual experience of it was surreal. Coming from Florida, Interstate 10 passes through New Orleans East.

The 12 miles, from the now closed Six Flags Amusement Park to the Vieux Carre exit off I-10 resembled the typical ghost town in a science fiction Doomsday movie.

We stayed in the French Quarter, which experienced only minor physical damage, but has a noticeable amount of businesses that have yet to reopen; for various reasons, including a shortage of employees due to lack of housing.

The food and drinks at places like Coops on Decatur, Court of Two Sisters (Jazz Brunch), Cafe Du Monde, Pat O'Briens, etc., was still great, but there was a difference in the mood of the city. I don't mean the people. We had good and bad service (mostly good) at restaurants and other establishments, but the city seemed a living entity, in a state of shock, or depression. It wasn't just the usual New Orleans sweltering summer heat, it was more intense than that, weighing one's own mood down.

The obvious areas of devastation look as if the storm hit just days
ago instead of 10 months ago. Even the lightly damaged areas like the Garden District had a depressed look, or feel, like the city's physical exterior was expressing what its residents are experiencing emotionally. If New Orleans was admitted to a hospital it would be on the critical, but stable list, barring any more complications, like getting hit by another large storm.

In the past, New Orleans survived yearly, yellow fever epidemics that decimated the population. At the Battle of New Orleans an overwhelming, elite military force of British regulars, was defeated with an unusual, but typically New Orleans gumbo, of soldiers, pirates and civilian volunteers of mixed racial and social status. We can only hope the overwhelming forces currently confronting New Orleans, will also be defeated, with the help of all those who truly care for "The City That Care Forgot".

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