Thursday, January 05, 2006

New Orleans Yesterday

I waited 'til this morning to write about our trip to New Orleans yesterday. Processing what I saw, along with deciding what was noteworthy for this blog, slowed me down. I think I'm ready.

The drive to New Orleans on 1-10 West shows the storm's devastation well. Trees on either side of the highway are twisted, bent and down on top of other trees. There is debris in the gulleys along the wetlands area. Can these wetlands be recovered? Traffic moves along at a steady clip where the lanes are open then slows to nothing when the lanes narrow along broken highway areas.

We approached N.O. over the Pontchartrain Bridge which delighted Songbird with it's length and the view of the Lake. Not much traffic here but it moves along.

Entering the City over the High Rise, we see the dark colors of damaged buildings and broken homes. The trees standing after the storm are brown. Can the trees be saved?

I am very angry that public discussion of the re-building of New Orleans has some people thinking we can just let the city die. How can that be? Is it because New Orleans has a large population of poor people and ethnic groups? Is it because the city is Southern? Can you imagine any other city in the United States being considered as negligible? If you think we can lose New Orleans, I'd like to slap you in the face and I have never slapped anyone in the face. You can be the first.

We drove to the Quarter easily on the familiar route I've used for years. No problem. We see water lines on the old buildings showing how high the flood water rose. The big public housing complex is boarded up. There aren't traffic lights so we depend on stop signs. This is terrifying as New Orleans drivers, like any big city drivers, are aggressive. Can you believe that there aren't street lights yet?

The Quarter is quiet, clean and a few stores are open. I see that Brennan's has reopened across from the newly restored Supreme Court building. Several hotels look open.

At Jackson Square, I try to determine where your President stood for his Jackson Square Address. I listened to every word he said that night and I see as I look around that his words have fallen into the Mississippi River and disappeared.

I go to shops and drop money on trinkets, calligraphy, an antique print. I am doing sympathy shopping to encourage the shop keepers. I am weirded out.

Very quiet in the Quarter. I've never seen it like this.

If I tell you that it looks weird, you won't come to the French Quarter and if you don't come and revive that area with your presence, it will die.

New Orleans appears to be waiting for it's "tipping point". Stay or go? Rebuild or walk away? Hope or despair?

New Orleans is living between the past and future. Nothing new there as it is a city of history and exuberance. These days, the living between is more poignant and painful than I've ever seen.


Emily said...

St. C., this is just heartbreaking.

I've only been there once, on a choir tour, but I can't imagine the U.S. without New Orleans, it's such a part of the national consciousness.

seawitch said...

I've argued with many bloggers over this issue as well as the need for federal aid in rebuilding both the Mississippi Coast and New Orleans. I cannot understand those who say New Orleans should not be rebuilt.

There is so much ignorance out there it's unbelievable. One blogger even compared a hurricane to a blizzard!

New Orleans is vital in so many ways and it's a unique city. Where else can you hear the New York accents among the Irish Hill residents or the sweet patois of Cajuns?

I really think that the national news media has damaged the image of New Orleans to such an extent that the rebuilding efforts will be hampered.

Anonymous said...

You can be against building back New Orleans IF...

you were against federal money helping New York after 9/11

you were against helping Chrysler company and the airlines and the rail road system when each hit hard times

you never got a welfare check, a student loan that you did not pay back, a farm subsidy, a corporate subsidy, or SBA loan

you never went bankrupt

you don't use Medicaid or Medicare

you don't use federal lands to graze your cattle

and you have never gotten help from your federal government when you needed it.


peripateticpolarbear said...

Hey! I also went there on a choir tour! And I also cannot imagine the US without New Orleans. Cajun country and appalachia are our only completely distinct cultures. this is a beautifully put post.

BTW--how far from NO do you live?

Preacher Mom said...

Me three! My only trip to New Orleans was on a choir tour. I cannot imagine folks turning their backs on this city that is like no other.

I hear the pain in your words. For those of us who are not there, we cannot begin to imagine. Still, our hearts are with you.

Gannet Girl said...

I JUST found this via the Presby ring and can't wait to come back after work and read about your trip. Take a look at my blog and you'll see I'm headed to NOLA in a week.