01 September 2005

Reminiscing New Orleans by Rex Lindeman

As someone who lived in New Orleans for a number of years, I can hear the voice of Harry Connick Jr. in my head singing Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans. New Orleans is one of America's most iconic cities, and one of few cities in our country that actually has a soul. Yes, the City itself has a soul.

On Monday, while I suspected that we had not yet heard the worst of the reports from New Orleans, the Tuesday reports were worse than my worse fears. My heart was breaking, and my stomach began to ache for all of the loss. While I fear there may be thousands dead in New Orleans, I believe from various reports that all of my friends safely evacuated. Thank God that they ordered a mandatory evacuation. If not, I believe the loss of life would be so much greater. They have never ordered a mandatory evacuation before, and but for the grace of God, I could be one of those on the roof if Andrew had not veered to the west in 1992 and this nightmare resulted.

As William mentioned, New Orleans is a unique and fascinating place, as I am sure most everyone on this list knows. Just think about the warm and giving people, the historic and ornate architecture, the many icons, the rich and wonderful food, the parties and festivals, the music, and the list goes on and on.

I am so sad for the loss of life. The pain that so many people are feeling is unimaginable. One and a half million people are displaced from the city and will have tremendous difficulty working for the next month, if not for many months. Even in the Wall Street Journal today, people are questioning whether the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has the potential to differ from other disasters. "Natural disasters have hit bigger states in the past and inflicted little lasting economic damage. And the economy has proven resilient to terrorist attacks, war and accounting scandals. But the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has the potential to be different, because the storm damaged an already strained national energy infrastructure and a critical hub for the transportation of grains, steel, rubber, and many other products."

Further, we may have lost irreplaceable icons. The water may be causing the structural demise of many of the French Quarter's old brick and mortar buildings with wrought-iron balconies. Water is flowing through graves of the ornate mausoleums. The hundreds-of-years-old oak trees that line St. Charles Avenue and form canopies overhead may be irreparably damaged by the storm. Iconic restaurants, such as Commander's Palace and Antoine's have lost significant portions of their structures. Antoine's, where I believe Oysters Rockefeller was first served, has lost one of its walls. Half of the turquoise/white Victorian façade of Commander's Palace is gone. In a world far that too often finds it easier to do away with the old by replacing it with new items lacking character, New Orleans fights to retain its character, its culture, and its spirit.

I hope that the people of our country will help New Orleans during its time of great pain and suffering. I do not want the city to lose its soul. As noted here earlier, now is the time to help in any way you can.


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