As we left our Alabama vacation destination on a day when rain would keep us off the beach, we decided on two goals; one, check out the French Quarter (since neither of us had been there, we no idea what to expect) and two, check out the post Katrina rubble (somehow still fresh in our minds seven years after.)
As we drove into New Orleans on I-10, we thought goal number two would be a slam dunk. We passed several buildings just off the interstate with boarded windows and decaying roof and said, “yeah, I’ll bet that one was damaged by Katrina … and oh man, check that one out.” Of course, we were oblivious to any social, economic, developmental factors since we aren’t from Louisiana, our thoughts were based on whatever our collective memories could piece together (and from the propiganda signs signaling no help from the federal government or memories that were long since obscured by 7 years of life).
First for anyone who hasn’t been there, let me report that the French Quarter is alive (except for the dude pining for cash but barely aware of his surroundings) with music, drinking, beads, food and generally adult debauchery. We hit it in lightning style (with a 9 year old daughter that includes a quick trip down Bourbon St. with slight of hand as we passed each adult shop or strip club), lots of pictures, a few gift shops, a wig shop and some real Cajun food. For anyone with out a child, I’d recommend more time for more pictures.
At the Gumbo Shop, we asked our waiter for a recommendation on where we could get a sense for the lingering devastation. He pointed us down Rampart Street towards St. Bernard Parish where he had lived when Katrina hit in 2005 and told us of the houses still boarded up waiting for the banks to take over a demolish them.
We headed east from the Quarter through neighborhoods that may have been impacted by the hurricane … or maybe not. It became quickly apparent that with no frame of reference, our journey would net no concrete results. The piles of rubble still burned in the collective conscience of the internet no longer dotted the neighborhoods we drove through. Concrete slabs that had once been a house or business could have been the result of the great storm or a random fire before or after. The expensive looking new homes (that looked completely out of place) built up along Bayou Road as we headed into the delta may have been built with insurance money or it could have been they were built there because or affordable land.
There were some clear signs in select areas that Katrina had hit hard such as a shopping center where only the parking lot with rusted light poles surrounded by a chain link fence still remained. The abandoned area was experiencing a rebirth with a new McDonald’s and Walgreen’s in stark contrast to the bleak landscape of rusted lighting and crumbling asphalt. I decided it was okay to attribute this areas revitalization to post Katrina efforts.
Hitting a road closed sign, we turned to retrace our drive and, as we drove past closed exits which would probably never reopen and heavy equipment being reclaimed by the earth in the last spot it was used, we felt that New Orleans was surviving just fine. The catastrophic predictions of it’s demise had not come to fruition and the scars of the tragedy were hard to see 7 years later.
The rebirth of New Orleans is what we see in our lives everyday. Our lives are afflicted by tragedy, strife and difficulties (our personal storms) but the scars are destined to fade with time. Even the most ferocious storms that batter our shores and permanently change our landscape will be transformed as time works it’s magic and we see our personal tragedies eventually fade like the scars on the Louisiana coast. The scars are still there but recede into the landscape of our lives. Tragedies are replaced with triumphs and the scars continue to be just memories that we hold on to as pieces of our existence. The rebirth of our souls brings new energy to our life. We aspire to awake each day and shed the difficulties from the day before and let my rebirth flourish.
As we drove back towards Alabama with tomorrow’s promise of returning sunshine and I watched New Orleans skyline diminished in the rear view mirror, I’m again reminded how important renewal is to our souls. Trials bring opportunity to experience rebirth and with rebirth, we are given a chance to grow from each experience.