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

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Back to "Reality"

Let me first start by apologizing for my inability to count. In my last blog I said “closing in on three years after Katrina,” and I meant to say closing in on two. Thankfully, basic math is not required in order to graduate from law school.

I am home from New Orleans and reading for my classes tomorrow. I have caught myself saying “back to reality” several times only to laugh at myself… I am actually leaving reality and headed back into my 1L law school bubble. This transition is difficult because I had become so invested in my client’s situations. I was not yet ready to leave New Orleans because there was so much more to do on each case. After talking to several peers and Ellen Artopeus of the Pro Bono Project, I have learned that this is an issue with many students. Successions take many months to complete and we only have five days to work on them. Nevertheless, once I have started something, it is more than difficult for me to leave it unfinished. However, I must remember that I did move each case along, if only a little bit. My phone calls and research saved the New Orleans Pro Bono Project a minute here and an hour there. That alone makes a difference.

My time spent in New Orleans was eye opening and valuable for me both as a law student and a citizen of the United States. New Orleans is a resilient, vibrant city that still needs the support of the country. It is easy to forget about Hurricane Katrina because it has been one and a half years since it hit. However, the city still needs all the assistance it can get - including helping hands, contractors, materials, and money.

What I found most striking and troubling is that as a tourist, you can fly into New Orleans, take a cab to the French Quarter, stay a week and take a cab back to the airport without seeing much effect from the hurricane except maybe for a "For Sale" sign here and there. Basically, unless you are really looking for it, you wouldn't notice too much difference in the city. There is jazz music on every corner, drinking on Bourbon Street and tourists EVERYWHERE. But, if you drive out of the French Quarter and into District 6, the 9th Ward or over to the Canal Street breach, it looks as if the hurricane hit last week. Some homes are gutted but many have been left untouched. Some homes are leveled with only cement foundation remaining, but many display "No Bulldozing" signs and "we are coming home" messages. Those signs have been there for one and half years and who knows if and when those people will actually have the means to rebuild and come home.

These areas were the areas hit the hardest, but unfortunately they are easy to avoid, if you want to avoid them. It is clear from talking to any citizen that the city of New Orleans has not forgotten about the Hurricane, no matter where you live and work. However, I worry that our country has now started to forget when the city needs our help the most. New Orleans is attempting to rebuild their homes and communities from the ground up, and they cannot do it alone.

Fortunately, there were a number of other organizations including other law students and undergraduate students who chose to spend their spring break working to help the city of New Orleans. Law students from Iowa, Indiana, St. Louis and Howard were all working for the Pro Bono Project this week. In fact, it was the largest group they had taken on since Katrina. Also, during our drive through the 9th Ward on Wednesday morning, we saw a hefty group of students forming at the Common Ground 9th Ward headquarters. Each was wearing a protective suit and carrying a mask. Each was ready to help clear and gut homes.

Support is there, but I say the more the merrier.


  • Thanks for visiting and helping the Pro Bono Project. I think the students down here on break did a lot of good.

    By Blogger Nola Blogger, at 9:29 PM  

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