That conversation concerns the rebuilding of New Orleans and her suburbs. My family was remarkably affected... But no more remarkably affected than most families in the area... Some of them lost houses, others are in the process of completely rebuilding their houses at one stage or another. The unfortunate truth is that our families are not at all unusual. To find a family with no damage, from a storm 9 months ago, is unusual.
This afternoon, I went to lunch with friends I had not seen since 2003. No matter what the original topic, the conversation always seemed to come back to Katrina, even a topic as mundane as the Saints. I asked why the Saints, which less than six months ago were rumored to be moving to San Antonio, had record season ticket sales. The reason was not that the amazing running back from USC, Reggie Bush, was drafted. It was that FEMA money from construction workers was allowing for more people to purchase football tickets.
The front page of the paper concerns plans for rebuilding, every day. AND IT SHOULD. The sad truth and the worry of many residents is that the nation as a whole is no longer interested. The amount of damage that this area took is extraordinary. This story is not over, and will not be for years. FEMA is doing some things; the question from locals concerns speed and effectiveness. A story such as this one does not go away, and does not occur in a vaccuum.
We live in South Florida and, trust me, we get hit by numerous hurricanes, but nothing nearly as all encompassing as Katrina was to this area. CNN just did a piece on a day in the life of New Orleans. It showed the trials of the citizenry, from crime to education to health care. These are all challenges New Orleans faces. However, CNN fell into a trap. They are so eager to get the sensational news angle, that they are missing the bigger picture.
PEOPLE ARE COMING BACK. Significant numbers of New Orleanians are returning and trying to build a better city. The goals of this city are to be stronger and more vibrant than prior to Katrina. Yes, there is remarkable work to be done, but to focus on the negative is the wrong way to get there. If all you hear about is the difficulties of the situation, people and tourists are less likely to come here permanently or even just to visit. Focus on the strengths of the rebuilding and the ways others can help.
There have been extraordinary acts of kindness from strangers... from feeding people you do not know, to giving up vacation to help others in rebuilding their neighborhoods. Locals, of course, have helped each other, but people have also come from all across the country to help out however they can. People are still living day by day down here, and each day the conversation continues... What has opened near you...Who is coming back?...Americans need to support the reconstruction by encouraging their representatives to fund the spending bills required to rebuild and repair, and focus on the promise of this great area, rather than the problems that discourage people from visiting or returning.