Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Memories of New Orleans

It's taken me awhile to process the magnitude of destruction and misery in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Disasters often strike on foreign soil, but when they hit our own countrymen and women, it affects you with a power unlike anything else.

I visited New Orleans back in college. It was my first real traveling experience (I was a naive college freshman) and we drove from Nebraska all the way to New Orleans, stopping in Arkansas, Memphis, Vicksburg, Shreveport, and numerous other places along the way. My feet have trod the very ground where Katrina struck.

In my college years, I loved the South. I loved the rich history. I'd grown up with a very avid interest in the Civil War, reading Gone With the Wind at a relatively young age. The Ante-Bellum South fascinated me with its history, both good and bad, and I eagerly jumped at the chance to visit. Packed in a van with my history professor and ten other people, only one of whom I knew even slightly, we set off. We drove from a tiny town in Northwest Nebraska to Arkansas in one day - sixteen hour trip. We made our way down through Arkansas, Tennesee, and Mississippi until we hit Louisiana and headed to New Orleans.

I became captivated with New Orleans. It is such an eclectic city, full of different cultures, all blending together to form this intriguing mix of humanity. I visited the French Quarter, tasted Blackened Voodoo beer for the first time, wandered around St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, watched a man shoot fire from his mouth and listened to a flute player dressed like a medieval minstrel. I talked with a poet standing in the lights of the French Quarter, was serenaded by a wandering band of jazz musicians, and listened to Irish music in one of the best Irish pubs in town. I saw the multi-colored shot gun houses, the above-ground cemetaries, and took a ride on a steamboat and ate shrimp Creole.

Now I wonder if that pub is still there...

We walked down Canal Street after the trolleys shut down for the night, in awe of a city that could be so quiet, almost mystical. We drove out to the site of the Battle of New Orleans, a battle that didn't need to occur because a cease fire had already been declared. Is that under water? Probably.

It's a trip I'll never forget. And I hope to someday walk those streets again, listening to jazz music drifting across the noise of vendors selling Mardi Gras masks.

My thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy.

4 comments:

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  2. I'm still stunned when they show the pictures of the cities/towns underwater. It seems incomprehensible that New Orleans will be underwater for a few months to come, that the people will be displaced, no homes or jobs for much longer. I can't even imagine what they must be going through.

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  3. Your memories gave me a nicer picture of the New Orleans I once knew as well.

    At 17 the only thing that stood out to me was the free fudge at "Fudge Time" because it was my birthday, and the shock of those electrically powered, um, things that make you go "hmmm..." in the glass case at a shirt store on Bourbon St.

    Thank you for giving us a glimpse at the 'good' New Orleans.

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  4. I'm so glad I was fortunate enough to visit NO before this tragedy. Eating beignets at Cafe du Monde, Bourbon Street after dark, touring Oak Alley (I wonder if those trees survived). It was the best trip of my life.

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