Our Beloved New Orleans Series Part 2 – Rebuilding

In 2005 after Hurricane Katrina landed ferociously in the Gulf Coast areas, nearly 23,000 men, women and children were transported from New Orleans via school buses to Reliant Park in Houston, Texas.

New Orleans Superdome Overflight Photo, NOAA image  2005

New Orleans Superdome Overflight Photo, NOAA image 2005

New Orleans, September 5, 2005 - The large group of individuals gathered at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in the downtown area slowly thins as helicopters ferry them from here to the New Orleans Airport.  Once treated, all these evacuees will be going to shelters and hospitals across the United cStates.  Photo by Win Henderson / FEMA photo.

New Orleans, September 5, 2005 - The large group of individuals gathered at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in the downtown area slowly thins as helicopters ferry them from here to the New Orleans Airport. Once treated, all these evacuees will be going to shelters and hospitals across the United cStates. Photo by Win Henderson / FEMA photo.

Thousands of hurricane Katrina survivors from New Orleans are bussed to refuge at a Red Cross shelter in the Houston Astrodome.

Thousands of hurricane Katrina survivors from New Orleans are bussed to refuge at a Red Cross shelter in the Houston Astrodome. FEMA Photo Andrea Booher

Cots are set up in the Reliance Center to provide additional housing for people bussed from New Orleans in the FEMA organized program.  The Red Cross provided a special package for each cot.  Photo by Ed Edahl/FEMA

Additional Cots are set up in the Reliance Center (next to the Dome) to provide additional housing for people bussed from New Orleans in the FEMA organized program. The Red Cross provided a special care package for each cot. Photo by Ed Edahl/FEMA

Photo Credit

I have to admit that Houston, as a city,  did an incredible  job working with Katrina survivors in the Reliant Park, the George R. Brown Convention Center, and across the city serving so many with dire needs.  For over two weeks, along with many many other dedicated volunteers, my husband and I spent time helping in various areas of the Dome.  Our work ranged from sitting and listening to families, accompanying elders to obtain prescriptions, to helping orienting shift volunteers within our group.  We did whatever was needed of us at the time.

“I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody.”- Lily Tomlin

Thousands of hurricane Katrina survivors from New Orleans are bussed to refuge at a Red Cross shelter in the Houston Astrodome.FEMA photo/Andrea Booher

Inside the Dome

9/2/2005--Approximately  18,000 hurricane Katrina survivors are housed in the Red Cross shelter at the Astrodome and Reliant center.  FEMA photo/Andrea Booher

By 9/2/2005--Approximately 18,000 hurricane Katrina survivors are housed at the Reliant Astrodome and Reliant center. FEMA photo/Andrea Booher

Photo Credit

During that time I was very fortunate to work closely with highly regarded Geriatric Physicians and a team of nurses, social workers, case managers, physician assistants in developing a tool and protocol in assisting the elders in the Dome.  This project was later published as Recommendation for Best Practices in Management of Elder Disaster Victims.

In 2005 we knew that American Psychological Association (APA) of which my husband is a member,  was planning its 2006 Annual Convention in New Orleans.  We had hopped and were happy to learn later that APA would hold the convention in New Orleans as planned.  We knew this was a way to return to our beloved New Orleans to support this community once again.  APA annual conventions are regularly attended by nearly 10,000 professionals and as far as we were concerned, this was good news for New Orleans.

APA Annaul Convention 2006 -  New Orleans

APA Annual Convention 2006 - New Orleans

In 2006, the APA convention was held in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center where many of  the survivors we  helped were trapped for days.  This was our first trip back since the horrific hurricane that took and shattered so many lives.   Though it was a bittersweet feeling to be in that very building,  we felt it was important to make the best of our trip.  The convention scheduled excellent speakers, exhibits, workshops as well as events and activities.  Dr. Zimbardo, Dr. Bandura, Dr. Sueand Dr. Phil, are a few examples.   We also attended a fundraiser with Bill Cosby which benefited the schools in New Orleans.   There was also an uplifting traditional Jazz music performance that celebrated the spirit of New Orleans.  It was truly an experience to remember.

Jack with Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D at the APA Convention

J with Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D at the APA Convention

@ Fundraiser with Bill Cosby benefiting New Orleans Schools

Fundraiser with Bill Cosby benefiting New Orleans Schools

Spending $$ in New Orleans was, and still is, a part of rebuilding the community.  We visited with shop owners and learned about how they survived and why they came back to New Orleans.   Once a lively city always full of vibrant spirits, colorful festivities and lively culture was not so much so at the time of our visit in August 2006.   Truly it broke our hearts and at the time, we did notice that many of the shops were still out of business and the damage by Katrina from a year prior was still obvious and painfully visible.

We cannot go to New Orleans without a visit to the famous Cafe Du Monde.   Normally, this place is packed with tourists, full of life– and if you’ve ever been to New Orleans, you know what I am talking about.  However, that day, again,  it was sad to see only a few customers (most likely other convention attendees) along with the two of us.  (The picture below was taken by another APA convention attendee.)   We also visited, for the first time, the famous Mother’s restaurant  and boy was the food delicious-  um.. umm!! :-)  They are famous for their traditional breakfasts and Po-Boys.  We recommend the “debris” Po-Boy (no, the name is not in reference to Katrina).

Unusually vacant Cafe Du Monde in August 2006,  11 months after Hurricane Katrina

Unusually vacant Cafe Du Monde in August 2006, 11 months after Hurricane Katrina

During the trip, we knew deep down that our work in New Orleans was not complete.  We knew we needed to do more- we just didn’t know how and when.  Later that year (serendipity?) we came across an advertisement on TV about volunteer work completed by Catholic Charities’ “Operations Helping Hands” Program in New Orleans.    We jumped on this opportunity to give our time and effort once again.  In November 2006,  my husband recruited nearly 30 college students to volunteer with us during  the Thanksgiving Holidays.

Please do stay tuned for Part 3 of our series as we unfold our trip to New Orleans with these students and our daughter.  It was an amazing experience for us and for them.

Thanks again so much for taking the time to read this post and remember, New Orleans still needs you!

New Orleans Series Part 1

Rebuilding New Orleans Thanksgiving Part 3

You can follow all things New Orleans on Facebook or on Twitter!

We respectfully dedicate this series of blog posts to the Men and Women who tirelessly participate in recovery efforts during many natural or man-made disasters in the USA and abroad–and to the victims and survivors of those events.  You are our heroes and your work  inspire us to take action, and be a part of the solution, not the problem!

  11 comments for “Our Beloved New Orleans Series Part 2 – Rebuilding

  1. October 3, 2009 at 11:41 am

    This is beautiful and inspiring piece! You are true heroes!

    New Orleans is a fantastic city – filled with life, culture, and happiness! It was devestating when this city was hit by Hurricaine Katrina and it’s beautiful to hear stories of people helping this amazing city.

    You are the definition of true beauty on the inside and out and and you really inspire us to be better humanitarians!

    P.S. We are thrilled to report that Cafe Du Monde is back to its regular, jam-packed self! Yay! (This was from July 09!)

    • GotPassport
      October 4, 2009 at 3:23 am

      Hey you two:

      Love finding your comments here on our blog. Thanks again. We were in the Big Easy back in March 09 on the way back from Disney World, and it was lively again. Glad to know you were inspired! :-)

  2. October 6, 2009 at 6:43 am

    Thank you so much for assisting us and keeping this story alive. I was a tourist stuck in the Superdome and ended up being bussed to Dallas after a harrowing ordeal (my 2008 memoir was, “Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina”) One and in your case two people have made a difference in peoples’ lives. Again, thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Paul Harris

  3. October 12, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Nice reportage ;)

    • GotPassport
      October 12, 2009 at 2:39 pm

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. October 25, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Thanks for this post. It’s a great reminder of what happened in the not so long ago. When Katrina hit I was in Houston with my mother who needed chemotherapy at MD Anderson. Wherever I went during that weekend, Houstonites were going out of their way to try to help me with directions, advice, etc. because they assumed I was a hurricane evacuee. (In actuality I’m just an Austinite). I can attest to the warm welcome many evacuees must have experienced in your city.

    • GotPassport
      October 25, 2009 at 9:06 pm

      Great to see you here Carmen. Thanks for the comment also.

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