New Orleans, day 1


After being away a few years, I’ve returned to one of my favorite cities, New Orleans.

To be honest, I kinda dreaded the return.

But I had to come back, I needed to come back.

This week, through the generosity of my employer, I’m spending the week volunteering with Hands on New Orleans, a nonprofit group involved in many projects aiding the city and its residents.

Tomorrow, I’m on mold removal duty.

Tonight, I’m settling in for a well-deserved rest after driving down from Birmingham.

For the next few days, I’m sharing my experiences volunteering in post-Katrina Louisiana. I’ve written about New Orleans a couple of times.

Several colleagues have already been to the Gulf Coast to help out and share their experiences.

The weather along Interstate 59 was mostly good, a little drizzle but usually somewhat sunny and warm. Driving into the city and seeing a familiar skyline was haunting.

And driving through the neighborhood to the church, which has served as volunteer headquarters since March, was eerie. More than a few houses are just beyond help, either falling apart or burnt down. Junk and debris are still piled up even on busy streets.

The Superdome looks back to normal, thankfully.

At the center, the delivered pizzas went fast, as more than 50 of us grabbed slices and ate while participating in the evening meal.

By the way, three showers, two of them outdoors. This is going to be interesting.

A group from AmeriCorps has a longer rotation, serving as team leaders on the various projects. Most of the folks here are kids, college students or recent graduates. One biked down from Maine. A trio arrived today from Boston. The guy in the bunk below me has been here for weeks, originally from Seattle but living in Los Angeles — he’s going to Daytona Beach to visit family later this month.

And they’re putting on a musical, one they wrote a couple of weeks ago and have been rehearsing. I won’t get to see the final run, but I’ll peek in on rehearsals tomorrow.

Rows and rows of wood-frame beds are home for us tireless workers. The wakeup call is at 7, and we’ll be headed out to our sites by 8.

My bunk bed is calling me.

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New Orleans 2006


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