I started writing this post in the beginning of June, 2006, while visiting friends in New Orleans.
June 2, 2006
Yesterday was the first day of hurricane season and this city is on edge. The newspaper is full of tips for emptying out the 'fridge and freezer as the summer goes along, how to protect your house from storms and looters and how to evacuate in any direction. Some of my friends say they will never evacuate again if faced with another storm and some say they will leave much, much sooner than they did last year.
Our friend's 25 year old daughter, born and raised in New Orleans, was rescued from her attic window into a neighbor's boat and ended up at the dreaded Superdome. The experience was so awful and traumatizing, she says she will never again reside in New Orleans.
Another acquaintance whom no one had heard from since the storm, suddenly appeared at a local bar the night before I left and shared with us his story about being rescued out of his attic window by a helicopter. "Girl," he said, laughing, "I'm afraid of heights and I can't swim and here I was, dangling by a thread over all this water. I just knew I was done for." He recounted the story like the true drama queen he is and it made us laugh, but later I couldn't stop thinking about the sheer terror he must have felt. He tried living in Atlanta for several months and couldn't stand it. He came home.
I saw another acquaintance at the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience, a maître d' whom we'd gotten to know while following him from one fabulous restaurant (Metro Bistro) to another (Herbsaint). He and his family evacuated to Dallas and won't be returning.
Another couple's apartment was looted, but after "living in exile" for several months, they've returned and are getting on with their lives.
That was all I wrote on that trip. At the time I just felt too overwhelmed.
I was so happy to be there but so sad to see the state that the city was in. Granted, it was only 9 months since the dreaded K word, and rebuilding a city of that size takes years. The French Quarter, Canal Street and other, centrally located and touristy sections looked fine, but just a few blocks away the decay and destruction was heart wrenching.
I love New Orleans. It is still a vibrant, unique and beautiful place and it gets under your skin.
And I'm fortunate enough to be returning next week for the Carnival season thanks to our friend's extremely generous gift of a plane ticket!