In 2005, disaster struck the Gulf Coast in the form of Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest in American history. Our collective memory can clearly recall the images of families camped out on rooftops, arms outstretched towards the hovering helicopters. 10 years later, New Orleans still bears many scars, its waterlogged history not rusted in the tracks like the streetcar above.
The AirBnB I stayed in for two weeks was no exception. Its rusted mailbox had been painted over, the stenciled lettering replaced with stickers from the dollar store. In the darkened alley separating the shotgun house from the adjacent structure, now since abandoned, a layer of flaking paint chips lay at a height of about 8 feet, the ghost of a time when the water level almost reached the second story windows.
To outsiders, New Orleans may still appear backwards, stopped in time in the wake of tragedy. An untapped fire hydrant goes ignored, a rapid deluge of water snaking its way into a storm drains rather than a blazing building. Poeple like Randy "Wheels" Jefferson are overlooked as pan handlers, broken things, rather than survivors.
But New Orleans is a strong city, resistant to pity and steadfast in the wake of tragedy. Reconstruction has occurred at a trickling pace, but shows no sign of stopping. The changing planet we live on may mean that New Orleans will face even greater disaster in the future, but the real danger lies in extinguishing the hope that rebuilding is possible.