We passed time in the car talking, reading, listening to the radio, and playing games. It was a great time for family bonding before saying good-bye to our son. We encountered little traffic on this late-summer journey, save rush hour in Nashville. Our daughter learned the nuances of the regional dialect in the McDonald’s in rural Alabama. No time, however, to stop to see the world’s biggest ball of twine or Ruby Falls. Overall, our trip to New Orleans, loaded with the belongings needed to begin a freshman year at Tulane University, had been uneventful – until we reached the Desire neighborhood.
Explore This IssueACEP News: Vol 29 – No 11 – November 2010
We had seen the storm clouds forming in the distance since passing through Slidell on I-10. The nearly completed twin spans and the damaged spans to the north were tangible reminders of the mighty destructive force of Hurricane Katrina and the slow rebirth of a city deluged 5 years before. We made it over the Industrial Canal in drenching rain. By the time we reached the Franklin Street exit, hazard lights blinked all around and the limit of visibility was the back wheels of the next car. My wife drove down the ramp warily, and we took refuge in the Winn-Dixie parking lot after splashing through 8 inches of water.
So goes August weather in the Crescent City. This storm was typical of the midday storms that gather regularly that time of year in the gulf south. We knew it would pass, and after 20 minutes it did. Pumps would clear the standing water, which rested below sea level, within the hour.
As we maneuvered back to the highway in light rain, I could see more signs of rebirth. Buildings were under construction, and new trees had been planted. Still, there were boarded-up buildings essentially untouched since Katrina left her high waterlines – reminders of the destruction and pain.
We spent 5 days in the city moving in, eating, laughing, and reconnecting with old friends. The contrasts were remarkable. On one hand I saw a vibrant city emerging from disaster. Crews fixed streets, the trolley traveled St. Charles Avenue, and Saints fans packed the Superdome. When reading the newspaper or talking to people, however, I was left with the impression that the wounds were healing but still close enough to the surface to be painful when touched.
The Katrina flood was a whopper, but floods are not unusual in America. Anyone who lives near a river basin has seen this. After the cleanup of a flood, many towns will leave a post unpainted to display the high waterline. In a generation the pain will be forgotten, but the mark on the post endures as a reminder of what was overcome.