A few days ago I ran into a friend. She had recently returned to South Florida after living in New Orleans for a few months. I asked what she had thought of New Orleans and to my surprise, I heard something about a ‘dirty and dangerous city with crackheads.’ Her sentiments stung a lot. I’m not sure … I have nothing to do with founding New Orleans. I’m not even an authentic New Orleanian.
I was born a little more than 5,000 miles away. Yet here I was concerned and perplexed. I am lucky to have lived in several countries, states and cities, and with all of those ‘homes,’ I have never felt more at home then when I am in the city of New Orleans. They say it takes years to become a true New Yorker but with New Orleans, you can feel right at home immediately. Who wouldn’t love a city where creativity runs amok? Who doesn’t love festivals and block parties? Who doesn’t love to eat from sunrise to sunset and wash everything down with the best cocktails ever? Who wouldn’t want our cool neighbors? No one yelled at me when I accidentally broke into one of their homes, set off the alarm and helped myself to one of their beers, all in the span of one minute.
Ten years ago and three days before the city flooded, I moved to Miami. My parents rushed back home to prepare the house. Like the rest of the country, I was glued to the television.
I was 22, and for the first time in 22 years, a city was actually my home and then it was destroyed. It’s hard to put into words why and more importantly, how a city can become your blood, sweat and tears. Somehow New Orleans had become us, and quite possibly, it took Katrina to deliver that message. Yes, there was a lot of ugliness after Katrina, but it also awoke our senses, our humanity, and shined a light on problems. And yes, there are still issues but what city is without its problems? Our city doesn’t say no to creativity. Our city welcomes being different. And that’s a comforting feeling.