We’ve never seen New Orleans, except in movies and news coverage of Mardi gras. And then there was Hurricane Katrina. We expected to see the destruction that hit the 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish.
As we drove in, we did see that. FEMA trailers in the front yards of damaged houses, blue tarps covering damaged roofs and walls. That is what we had seen on the news and it still exists.
In our highly rated KOA in Kenner/River Ridge, near the Mississippi River, nearly two-thirds of the units were FEMA trailers—with steel bands tying them down to the concrete, cinder blocks supporting them instead of metal leveling devices, pvc sewer lines and metal stairways. This is 18 months after the hurricane.
We hear periodically about conditions in New Orleans on the national news. Monday night at least 10 minutes of the local New Orleans news concerned Katrina reconstruction and deadlines for removal of FEMA trailers from Jefferson Parish.
But the French Quarter is different. The trolleys operate. Bourbon and Canal and Decatur Streets are alive and serving locals and tourists. There was a huge convention at the Marriott and I walked down the street finishing my beer from lunch—it was in the obligatory plastic cup. Life seemed normal. And we saw French Quarter balconies and St. Charles Avenue trees decked out with Mardi gras beads.
We can’t speak to how far the city has come, but it still has a long way to go and it is better than we expected or imagined.