The Five Year Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina
By Jamey Perkins
I was recently in New Orleans. It was the second time I had been there since the hurricane happened.
My first time in New Orleans was about 8 years ago. My wife and I were in the area to visit my in-laws that were camping in the nearby town of Slidell. We really liked the area, and were very impressed with some of the local traditions. It seemed to us that, even aside from the well know Mardi gras event, the whole area kept a somewhat festive attitude. My father in-law even said “The people around here look for any reason at all to have a parade.”
The food was nothing short of spectacular, and the shopping in the area was designed to bring out the child in any adult. I had my first Po’ boy sandwich on that trip and I also was tempted to try the popular crawfish cuisines, but the Indiana country boy in me said “no”.
My second time in New Orleans was three years ago. Having been less than just two years after the hurricane, the results of the devastation were still very evident. There was still mud left over from the flood waters. Condemned buildings, still waiting on insurance claim settlements, were still standing all over the city and surrounding areas. A few businesses were open and seemed to be thriving, but many were closed up. Even if you had never heard of Katrina, you could not help but know that something disastrous had recently happened.
I remember my wife noting that there appeared to be an extremely high amount of homeless people in the city. Poverty seemed to be the norm, rather than the exception. The streets were home to countless construction and demolition vehicles, and the semi-trucks were making continuous trips in with building supplies.
In the aftermath of the storm, many people moved away from New Orleans. Much of the normal housing and commerce revenue had been lost with this outflow of population, and the city struggled to rebuild its economy. My wife and I had discussions over the rebuilding process. We wondered how they would ever make a complete reform. To us, it seemed unrealistic for the area to make a full comeback. I mean, why anyone would move back there after such devastation is something that confused me. Why rebuild a home in an area that could very easily be destroyed during any upcoming hurricane season.
A City Returning to Normal
Earlier this summer my wife and I, along with my parents, made a trip down to Slidell and the New Orleans area. We were scoping out possible campgrounds that we could use as a destination for an upcoming trip in our RV. While in route, it dawned on me that the question I had pondered only a couple of years before, could be asked of me now. “Why go there, if the area is in ruin and a storm could pass through with such destruction?” It was then that I had an answer for my own questions.
New Orleans is a place of festivity. It is a place of a carnival atmosphere, and a place to celebrate any time of year. It is a place that even the residents enjoy life and giving up just because of a little ole’ storm is certainly something that does not fit the profile.
As we drove through New Orleans on this trip, I was stunned by what I saw. It was the same city I had remembered from my trip 8 years earlier. As we drove down Bourbon Street, we could listen to the jumble of music coming from numerous Blues bars on the street. Small shops had their doors wide open and awaiting new customers. Novelty shops selling beads, and even traditional voodoo items were open and seemed to be doing quite well.
As we drove through the city, the smells of the local restaurants came through our car windows to entice us to come inside for lunch. We stopped at a local favorite for some soft-shell crab, and I got to introduce my father to a Po’boy. My wife and my mother made us stop for Beignets to take back to the hotel with us. Well, maybe they did not have to “make” us stop. After all, you really can’t go to New Orleans without having one.
Home is Definitely Where Your Heart Is
Leaving New Orleans made me realize something. People have been fighting and giving up their lives to protect their “home” since the beginning of time. Home is something that is as near and dear to us as our own family. There isn’t a person alive that does not have a strong connection to the place they call “home.”
Experts had been making predictions of the results from a direct hit by a hurricane in New Orleans for years. The devastation and loss of life that occurred was no surprise. A coastal city that is built below sea level could not expect any other outcome. Yet, those that call New Orleans home stayed. Those same people are still there, and have rebuilt their home. New Orleans is now back to its old self, and still serves as home to some of the most resilient people in America.
As I was leaving New Orleans on this last trip there, I could see the city in my rear view mirror. I could see the skyline, the traffic, and the businesses that people love. Although I was heading back to my own home in Indiana, I knew I would return to New Orleans again someday.
After all that has happened, New Orleans is now something more than just a place to visit. Just as Ground Zero in New York City, New Orleans is a symbol for Americans. It is a symbol of the same things our fore fathers fought for years ago. It represents “home”, and nothing will ever force an American to give up their home.
On this fifth anniversary of hurricane Katrina, Americans should stop to remember what we stand for: Freedom, Liberty, and the right to allow our hearts to determine our home.