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Returning to NOLA

Posted By Ramaah S., Mar 20, 2007

When I landed in New Orleans on Saturday, I had come back to a place that I hold very close to my heart. I graduated from Tulane University last May, and my relationship with New Orleans has been a love-hate relationship. I hated New Orleans the first year that I lived here – I hated the dirtiness, the crime, and the scared feeling I had when I returned back to my apartment at night. Returning this past Saturday to volunteer with SHN, I realize that I love New Orleans.

We started our day on Sunday with a tour with Stan, a friend of mine from graduate school. I had been on a tour of the 9th Ward with Stan in January 2006, but this time, the tour covered a large area that had been devastated by Katrina. We took a four hour tour through Lakeview, City Park, East New Orleans, the 9th Ward, and Mid City. Katrina didn’t just hit one neighborhood or one part of town; it destroyed businesses and homes of both the very rich and the very poor, whites and African-Americans. Katrina didn’t discriminate.

I feel anger towards the local, state and federal governments; it’s almost as if they forgot about New Orleans and the New Orleanians (and other Gulf Coast residents) who don’t have housing anymore, who can’t afford to return and rent overpriced apartments, and who can’t re-open up their small businesses. I feel guilty too – living in far away California and getting caught up in my first year of law school – I too have forgotten.

Every person that I have talked to feels that the government at all levels has not stepped up to the plate to help in the rebuilding process. Rather, volunteers from colleges and universities across the nation as well as religious organizations have come to help out. I’m glad that I am here, and I hope that the little things that I can do to help out will improve someone else’s life.

What I realize most is that the people of New Orleans are strong and determined to rebuild their city; yet, at the same, they are warm, welcoming and grateful for our presence here to help them. It is their spirit, their love, and their belief in their city that inspires me each day that I am here.