For the Good of the Gulf: UNC Law Winter/Spring Break Pro Bono Project

Sunday, January 07, 2007

My first trip to New Orleans

Close your eyes and imagine a neighborhood full of people. Children are running down the street, maybe on foot, with others riding bikes or skateboards. Two weeks ago we drove through this neighborhood… with one thing missing – the people. Much of New Orleans is alive. Bourbon Street is thriving, with scantily clad tourists laden with beads around their necks and long-necked plastic hand grenade shaped cups in their hands who are walking, laughing, talking down the street. The voices of karaoke singers ring through the open windows of “Cat’s Meow” and music from brass bands leak out into the dark nights in the French Quarter. So much of the city is here, so many people are back working, living, and playing. However, we visited a part of New Orleans that isn’t so lively. We went to St. Bernard’s parish, one of the hardest hit areas outside the city limits of New Orleans and a parish that is still trying to begin the rebuilding process. As we were driving down the dark, empty streets we talked in our (ever so stylish) van about the fact that this neighborhood probably held so many happy memories for families. Some have returned, with their FEMA trailer now a permanent structure on their front lawns and masking some of the emptiness in the house structure behind. There are Christmas lights, and wreaths hung on the doors.

Everyone has seen the pictures and heard the stories, but seeing just a fraction of the destruction of the storm is still so powerful, even over a year afterwards. So much of our trip has been filled with orientations, videos, case files, preparations, instructions, interviews, walking, prisons, food, and laughter. It has been a great time with some even greater people. However, it was nice to be reminded today of why we are in this special city, the city where (as Mindy will confess) people create their own way of life that often influences much of the rest of the country. Paris Road is pronounced by locals as “Parish Road” which can be confusing to out-of-towners. A “roof” and a “room” are said with the same vowel inflection that we North Carolinians give to the sound a dog makes (ruf). New Orleans is such an amazing city, full of life, sound, smell and taste. The French Quarter has some of the most beautiful architectural structures I’ve ever seen. I will come back to this city for many, many reasons (the aforementioned hand grenades maybe?) but I am so glad that I got the opportunity to remind myself of the reasons I made my very first trip.


Post a Comment

<< Home