New Orleans is often called the Crescent City. This moniker comes from the physical shape of the city, which rests at a noticable bend in the Mississippi River. From our hotel window, we were reminded of that every morning.
I found the view so captivating that I took it's picture repeatedly...
Not bad for a not-so-new cell phone eh?
Anyway, we gazed across the river at an area called Algiers. That area was hugely important in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina: it's where all the brave folk who stayed to clean up the city had to live until they'd declared New Orleans itself safe enough to let people stay. We heard a lot about that time this weekend... from a number of people who had worked (and are still working) to rebuild the city.
First was our waiter at breakfast, who had sent his family on, but came back as soon as the storm had passed to rebuild. He said that the city is coming back, but it's not the same as it was. Most notably, many of the young people who were displaced have settled where they landed when the storm hit. It leaves a whole in the fabric of the city, but does mean that those who have returned have a clear place to go -- their children and siblings have settled in dryer climes.
I met more than a few other people who either stayed in the city, never leaving even during the storm, or others who returned early. I met people who live in the Garden District who came back before there was running water to clean up the city and help restore it. They spent weeks during which they bathed in the only swimming pool in the neighborhood that hadn't been littered with debris. I met others who probably hadn't cleaned a toilet in years, but none-the-less came back to clean up the incredible dirt left by the floods.
The city they rebuilt is amazing. That they were able to save so much, so many 100 even 200 year old structures that are still standing, and are once again in use, and gorgeous. The French Quarter is bustling and vibrant and clean. (Well, for certain definitions of clean. Bourbon Street is still salacious).
We were there on the night of the solstice, when the skies looked like this:
The Moon to the East
And the Sunset to the West
In New Orleans, identifying East and West isn't always so simple. Folks talk about uptown and downtown - referring to upstream and downstream on the river. But as we mentioned, the river turns, so while sometimes upstream is north, at others upstream is east by north east. Confusing to folks who haven't grown up there.
Other miracles -- the live oaks that still stand, draped in ghostly Spanish moss.
Despite lots of loss, the city is still strong, and growing. I'm so glad I went.