Sunday, January 14, 2007


I didn't take a single picture in New Orleans. The image that sticks in my brain is that of Charity Hospital, which was once the largest public hospital in New Orleans. I remember the news during that time showing images of the hospital after sniper fire from the streets made it impossible to evacuate patients. Driving past the tall, salmon-colored building, eerily silent with broken windows, I felt an incredible weight of sadness and pain. I can only imagine what happened inside that place during and after the storm. It's been said that the damage to the building's structure was so intense that the city will have to demolish it and build a new hospital.

I was struck as well by the scope of devastation and slow rate of rebuilding. We drove for 2 hours through neighborhood after neighborhood, looking at ruined houses. Most have been gutted though some are still strewn with belongings, now covered in mold and rot. There were quite a few FEMA trailers outside people's houses and we saw many of those homeowners working in groups of one or two to restore their property. I wonder what will happen when three or four people have rebuilt their homes on a street with 12 or 15 other abandoned buildings. The amount of hope one has to muster to power through such circumstances is staggering to me.

It's clear that while many have volunteered and the government has provided some resources, there is so much work to be done. Regardless of whether you believe the people of New Orleans should rebuild considering the risk posed by the city's elevation, that place is steeped in a unique history and is home to many. The people of New Orleans are so culturally bright and vibrant with firey music, an irresistible vernacular and lush cuisine. It would be a real shame if our country lost that flavor, that piece of our heritage that contributes to the diversity of our nation. In a day when big box corporations and moneybags politicians are rapidly wiping out individuality, it's more important than ever for us to hold on to and promote cultural diversity.

If you'd like to give, Oxfam America continues to support survivors with their Katrina Fund.

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