Monday, January 5, 2009

New Orleans.

Everywhere, you could see lingering evidence of the storm. Whole apartment buildings stood gutted. Water marks crawled up walls, seeking disguise beneath mossy grime. Houses that had been homes stood empty, windows shattered, gone. There was a boarded-up Walmart that was missing its sign. A Burlington Coat Factory with a Baby Depot hosted only shopping carts in the parking lot. Car lots with spanking new vehicles boasted only temporary or damaged signs. We drove over Lake Pontchartrain on a bridge that had been patched together.

After the storm, there was talk of abandoning the city. Leaving it a ghost town, a silent, eerie memorial to Katrina's wrath. So many were killed. So many lost everything. So many chose not to return.

But some did return. There were new houses, new siding, new landscaping in neighborhoods that still housed condemned and destroyed homes. The city's French Quarter was packed with humanity and gridlocked traffic around the famous Café du Monde. New Orleans was hosting some rather important football game in which fans for both teams wore red and white. And parallel to the patched bridge was a new bridge being constructed of pieces from the old.

At first, I didn't notice the damage still visible in New Orleans. Like any other city I have visited, I was first struck by the character of the city. I could taste its wildness, its passion, its pain, its memory. As we left the city, however, I saw. There was an ache that brought tears.

Aftermath. That was the word. The word that focused the emotions of my journey, my personal storm, the word that focused what I was seeing all around me. And then, hope.

After every storm, there is life. Not everything dies. But the damage - that stays. Unless someone returns to restore it. Unless someone rebuilds what was broken. If someone can see hope for future in the ruins of what was, even what was can be raised again to bring life.

There is no measure to time out the aftermath. It is what it is, and each day is a new day, when piece by piece, old bits of rubble may be gathered, removed, salvaged, turned into something new. It will never be what was, but then, who knows yet what it was meant to be?


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