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New Orleans: First Post-Katrina Trip

Author: ThomB
Date of Trip: January 2007

I have friends who live in the French Quarterand others who are not so far outside of the city. My last trip into New Orleans proper had been about 2 weeks before Katrina hit. On this trip, the first thing I noticed was during the planning of my flight. Many more flights had smaller commuter jets into MSY than I remembered on previous visits. The car trip from the airport into town appeared fairly normal; other than a few boarded-up office buildings, I didn't notice anything too unusual other than some small colonies of FEMA trailers. I also saw the occasional trailer parked on someone's under-repair property.

I stayed at a friend's home on Bourbon St. and the French Quarter, itself, seemed much as before. It wasn't until we decided to take a drive into outlying neighborhoods -- between the Quarter and Lake Pontchartrain -- that damage was visible. We saw some of the neighborhoods with the X's painted on the outside walls, gutted houses, large dumpsters of rubble, and many billboards advertising home repair and sales of properties.

There were signs of rebirth, though; we also saw quite a bit of remodeling and rebuilding in the neighborhoods we passed, with people busy working. It was more deserted along the banks of Lake Pontchartrain, at least on the day we visited. Large rows of homes sitting above boathouses appeared empty or partially destroyed with little sign of life. A popular and large seafood restaurant was entirely gone.

Back in the French Quarter, I noticed my friends, always a bit cautious on the streets at night, were even a bit more wary than before. Muggings aren't totally uncommon there but they seemed to have more tales of these occurring and they seemed to be quicker to suggest a change in route if we were on foot and they spotted anything suspicious ahead. In spite of increased vigilance, the friend I stayed with was mugged the week after I left, walking between Bourbon St. and his car, parked two blocks north of there. It's hard to say what the future holds for the city, overall. It will probably not be the same for years, if at all.

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