Guest Blogger: Patrick Rogers
As much as I would like to go on forever boasting about my recent experience with thirteen other students and a campus minister while doing service and exploring the fantastic city of New Orleans, I cannot. To try to put into words how much the city has given me and how much it has changed me would be impossible. Amidst the tangible livelihood and celebratory atmosphere you can feel when walking through the city’s streets, there runs deep devastation even after ten years since Hurricane Katrina. While I cannot capture the full impact New Orleans has had on me into this post, here’s my best attempt.
Along with venturing through the city, our group worked at four different nonprofit organizations during the week. Driving around neighborhoods with houses still boarded up and empty lots with just cement steps leading to what was once a front door was a scary reality that I witnessed. The hardest thing for me to grasp while standing in front of lots that were once houses was the fact that it has been ten years. Ten years. I was only in fifth grade when Hurricane Katrina hit the city in the late summer of 2005. I remember seeing pictures and hearing news reports, but nine-year-old me was more concerned about my upcoming fifth grade year. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have changed and grown and matured in immeasurable ways over the past ten years. To think that the past decade of my life would have been halted is nearly impossible for me to even grasp. This in-between transitioning period still remains a stoic and fixed reality for the people who were forgotten about in New Orleans.
The damage didn’t end with Katrina either, there were incredibly high rates of contractor fraud, houses were ruined, neighborhoods were vanished, and people who called New Orleans their home were forced to relocate for months (or for some: permanently). The city had several problems before the hurricane struck; blaming Katrina for all of the currently existing problems would be giving the storm too much power. The city cannot be defined by the catastrophe. Instead, it is defined by the culture, the food (definitely the food), the faith, the smiles and laughter, the strength, the resiliency.
The most remarkable aspect of New Orleans is that through inconceivable devastation and failure, there is still triumph over such terrible realities. Of the many people that you talk to while you’re in New Orleans, they will say that volunteers rebuilt the city after Katrina – and it’s volunteers that still continue to rebuild. Providence College gives students so many opportunities to be a part of something greater than the bubble that we live in here on campus. I luckily have discovered this just as a sophomore. New Orleans has become a place of reconstruction and great strength. To say that they have been able to overcome – and are still working to overcome – a category five storm shows how strong and determined they are. And how much pride they have in their home. New Orleans is a community that you cannot leave behind. It will stick with you. New Orleans will always hold a special place in my heart, and if you’re ever feeling lost, I can promise you New Orleans will take you with open arms. The community and volunteers from all over the world in New Orleans are rebuilding, restoring, and restructuring a place that has been victim of destruction and devastation. I did not expect that it would rebuild, restore, and restructure my own life in the way that it has.