I’m beginning day 4 here in New Orleans. The conference has been going into it’s third day (second full day) now. For the most part things are going pretty well. I had the opportunity to experience New Orleans in a very unique way.
We got the opportunity to witness the devastation of Hurricane Katrina first-hand by getting on a bus and being led around the city by residents of New Orleans. I was asked to write a reflection on my trip for the conference newsletter, which best captures my thought of the trip:
Sixteen months after Hurricane Katrina, the headlines seldom remind us of the devastation brought by this storm. After witnessing the destruction first-hand through the bus tour, the impact of this national tragedy resonates through my heart and the hearts of students from all parts of the nation.
Students watched in awe yesterday as we entered the 9th Ward. It became difficult to count the boarded and standing houses, that remain empty to this day. Emotion overcame us as we saw an “X” marked on each house, each documenting the victims left by the storm. In our own homes, the opening of a new store brings a new place to buy material goods. However, here in New Orleans the reopening of a simple grocery signifies hope, a symbol of rebuilding and resurrection.
The narrators offered a first-hand account in many ways. We could hear their anguish – but above all – their pride for their community, and their determination to overcome adversity. In the midst of destruction, light was revealed to us in the form of the Musicians Village. Marked by vibrant Easter egg colors, these homes embodied new life delivered from death. In many ways, we witnessed the “Deltas of Change” through the eyes of the New Orleans survivors.
Last night we also got to experience something called the "Second Line", which is a New Orleans celebratory procession. Led by a big marching band, 700 students danced and marched along the streets of New Orleans, ending up at Jackson’s Square by Bourbon Street. It turned out to be a blast. People were hoisting people on their shoulders and dancing in the streets. I raised my friend Sarah onto my shoulders and managed to carry her for about 5 blocks. I was surprised that my shoulders could sustain for that long. As we were marching the streets, people came out onto the balconies to cheer and throw out beads. It was an amazing sight!
Today there were plans to do a lot of service projects throughout the city, but they have been canceled due to rain. We’re just sitting in our hotel rooms now, and I’m spending some time catching up on work.