August 29th is normally a day of joy in my life. This year I’ll be turning 31, having survived what I hope is the first third of my life fairly well. This year I’ll also join our nation in remembering the first anniversary of the effects that the 2005 hurricane season had on the Gulf Coast region, particularly the New Orleans metropolitan area. After my recent trip to the coast, I’m not sure if I will be thankful that I’ve seen another year on my birthday or if I’ll be wondering if we’ve done all we can down there to help.
The third time was the charm as I finally made my first visit to the Crescent City for the National Trust Main Streets Conference earlier this week (knocking out the second city on #16). I’ve taken additional pictures and will post them up sometime today, adding captions to all over the course of the weekend to the Smugmug photo site. The sad thing to realize as I rode by in a bus and then with Chris Miller on a surprise trip over the weekend was that as we always do as modern people, we’ve let our interest and attention to the problems in the Gulf Coast region fade over time.
The pictures posted can easily make someone not want to proceed with returning to the region. There are a few however that are probably wondering what else can be done to help. The need to rebuild is realized every time you hear a jazz recording, make fun of Emeril’s catch phrase or feel the need to party for Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street and beyond.
Nick Spitzer, host of American Routes, spoke at the conference’s closing plenary session of the unique cultural heritage of the city and the region, of a soundtrack existing to work with in order to bring the city back. I would argue that the city’s spirit is still there, seen wandering the various areas of the city. What they need now is to know that we still know there are issues and people are willing to do whatever is possible to help bring the city back from the brink. They need help cleaning up, but they also need to be able to house those that want to make a go of it again in the city. They need places to work. The good times are rolling in parts of the city. I think that it is safe to say that it wants to be rolling all over. The analogy of a soundtrack existing can also be applied to many areas of the country.
I started writing this wondering if I could truly express what my thoughts were about the situation and what could be needed in the region. I can say that I saw hope in the eyes of those residents I got the chance to speak to. There is potential for great things to come from what happened without “overplanning.” I can say that I probably had many more drinks than I should have because I didn’t really want to think about what I was seeing.
I can really simplify it by saying three things:
- Go visit.
- Volunteer something, anything if you can.
- Make sure others know about what’s going on and about how they can help.
Here are three links to look at to get a sampling of some of the thoughts, issues, solutions and concerns of the New Orleans area and beyond. If anyone has more, post a comment and let me know. I’ll put up some more as I go along as well.
Website for the New Orleans chapter of Habitat for Humanity. Check out the Musician’s Village link.
Interesting grassroots network site.
Official website for the Times-Picayune newspaper, the local daily paper for the city of New Orleans.
American Routes home page. You can listen to the soundtrack for recovery.
90.7 FM – NOLA’s Jazz and Heritage Station. Some more of the soundtrack.
Enjoy the weekend.