Cities Recover from Disaster – Faster than People

This past weekend looking for a bit of distraction from the anxiety leading up to the Super Bowl football game, we took a couple of days to visit new young friends, met on a trip last spring, in their hometown New Orleans. We had been there years before– long before Hurricane Katrina—and were interested in seeing what was happening with the recovery.

It has long been know that places– like cities—rarely simply evaporate completely, though they may go through long periods of decline, they belong, usually for a geographic reason, and in due course they become reinvented/reincarnated and –like Philadelphia for example —recover and become even more vibrant and interesting in new ways.

New Orleans is just such a place.

It sits astride the entrance to the great Mississippi –with all the economic benefits of straddling that port. It has been America’s place where French pride, language and love of food prevail. It has had its share of intrigue including Aaron Burr’s aborted efforts to buy and sell the Louisiana Purchase, which led ultimately to the death of Alexander Hamilton and the ostracism of Burr.

In more recent years the ‘low lying land’ behind fragile water barriers became home to many disadvantaged citizens, many of whom became completely displaced after Katrina.

Today the population of New Orleans is still well below pre-Katrina days yet the city has begun to show big signs of revitalization and recovery. The younger population is thriving, and education enriched at all levels. And, the city at large has developed the most interesting, well presented WWII museum in the United States.

Those who think of New Orleans primarily in terms of Mardi Gras, jazz, great food and parties will not be disappointed, but it is also becoming more and more a generally great destination city.

We bumped into several other couples from cities like Philadelphia, Atlanta and Detroit who like us had simply come to New Orleans just to ‘hang out’ and have fun –some with a carful of eager kids.

Indeed New Orleans took a pummeling from Katrina but it appears to be beyond simply recovering and is breaking new ground as a modern and lively city.

Yes, we all have a natural fear of disaster, floods and downturns. Of course, the flip side of that are the benefits of the recovery process. The pain and suffering of the very poor is never distributed fairly and must never be forgotten by the fortunate. In this case, happily, quite a lot of those hurt the worst, by total loss of their homes, have also come out better off by relocating to safer places and access to new and better work.

Add New Orleans to your check list of places to visit before the next Super Bowl game.

It sure gave the Patriots a leg up with us this year!


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