I was deeply afraid to come back here to New Orleans. You see we have to travel back to April of 1995 before we can arrive here in New Orleans After the Storm.
For most people when you say after the storm when referring to New Orleans you are referring to Hurricane Katrina. I too am referring to that storm but there was another storm for me. It was personal and it was huge. It blew into my life-like a Hurricane and shortly after it arrived I made my very first trip to New Orleans.
New Orleans After the Storm
In March of 1995 I was planning with friends my first ever trip to New Orleans. We were going to Jazz Fest the last weekend of April. I was thrilled. I loved Creole cooking from TV shows it started with Justin Wilson and his I Garontee!! tag line. I was an avid Emirl Lagasse fan and I was going to the land these guys made famous. Crawfish Etoufee, Red Beans and Rice, Roux, The Holy Trinity..Onion, celery and bell pepper.
What I did not know is in one months time my family would be hit with a storm the size of Katrina. My dad would be diagnosed with Terminal Cancer and he would be given a very short time to live. I had to make a choice to goto New Orleans or not…..My dad made the choice for me I was to go and have fun.
So off I went to New Orleans……
A 10 Year Love Affair
That first trip was sad and lonely and I did not really want to be there. I wanted to be home in Minnesota with my Dad. He wanted me there having fun and so I was in New Orleans. I was not really having fun although something was taking place.
From the moment the airport door opened and I was hit with that swamp air. The ride to the French Quarter. The smell of the French Quarter and all its sounds and noises. I was somewhere familiar something in my spirit was moved. My soul was at peace. Much of my trip was spent alone and thankfully my friends understood I needed that time.
I was losing my Dad but I was falling in love. I started a 10 year passionate love affair with a city.
My Dad lasted far longer than anyone thought he would. In April 1995 we thought we would have 6 weeks or so. Coit Jones had other plans and it was some 4-5 trips to New Orleans and 18 months later in October of 1997 that my Dad passed.
You see I went to New Orleans when I was depressed or had time or was depressed and had time. 2 days was all I needed. It was like a junkies fix. I had to breathe the air, eat the food, listen to the song the city sang. I often times told no-one where I was. It truly was a secret love affair.
This city held my when the worst thing possible was happening. My dad was dying and I was not even 30 years old yet.
After the Storm..
My Dad passed and I continued my affair. I introduced people to the city. Hoping they would love it like I did. Some loved it more than others. No one fell as hard as I did.
For nearly 8 years it was the only place I would travel. I would go for 48 hours or for 7 days. I never grew tired of it. If I had a bad week I would hop a plane. I moved to Ohio and I found I could even drive there. It was a different kind of trip when I drove but in the end that drive ended in New Orleans.
Then another storm…
I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when the Levees broke in New Orleans. I was watching the storm unfold while visiting my mom in her new home in Galena Illinois. It was the end of August 2005.
I was watching as the levee started to crumble. the news helicopter filmed the water pouring into the city. The people dying and begging to be rescued. The landmarks I loved and had visited underwater. Next to the death of my Dad it was one of the most painful experiences I had witnessed in my life to that point. It physically hurt to watch. I cried and not just a tear I wept for days. My lover had been taken from me. I was not sure I could go back to New Orleans.
My heart said go help rebuild but my head was positive I could not go there. I would not know how to explain to a group of people there doing good why I was weeping. Instead I gave money to every organization I could find that did good things in New Orleans…After the Storm.
It was a familiar feeling like when a loved one dies of cancer and you write a check to cancer research organizations and give money to people walking for cancer. I knew this feeling but I was having it for a city and not a human being.
Coming back to my Love
Time passed people I knew went, my sister went. I still could not go. There was good news it was coming back people were moving home, restaurants were opening. Then I heard it was back, life was nearly normal or as normal as it can be after utter devastation.
I was so frightened to go. Would this city still be everything I loved? Was the storm too much and it was now just a shell of its former self? It was now nearly 13 years since Hurricane Katrina and 20 years since my Dad had died. Was now the time??
I had the big 50th birthday in January and I mentioned to my mom I was going to goto New Orleans on my birthday weekend. I heard her hesitate but then she said it. “What if we went when I came to visit you??”…… Well that seemed kind of perfect. She had been one other time. Before Hurricane Katrina and she wanted to go back. When you are in love with someone or something you want your moms approval.
I am back in New Orleans After the Storm and I am in LOVE!!