Monday, April 14, 2008

A Return to New Orleans

I'm in New Orleans for a few days for a meeting sponsored by the US Census Bureau. I've visited here twice in the past; once with The Lovely Karen and once for a NSGIC conference. Both of those visits were pre-Katrina. Things have changed.

We're in a hotel on Canal Street, just at the edge of the French Quarter. There are several refurbishing projects in this part of town; you can tell that something went on, but there was no bad flooding here and things are getting back on track. I don't know that I'll have much time to look around, but what I've seen so far has not looked too bad.

I rode in from the airport yesterday evening on a small bus-load of visitors. There are several conferences in town this week. Our driver offered to give us an update as he drove. We agreed and he spoke for the whole of the 25-minute (or so) ride about what had happened, where and why. He pointed-out abandoned hospitals and the high-water marks in places that had flooded badly. He described some of the recovery efforts and credited us, as visitors to his town, as a key part of that recovery.

The Katrina flood, and its aftermath, coincided for me with a minor personal health challenge. I spent the first few days of that event in Beebe Hospital with a blood clot and the balance of that first week recuperating at home. I was feeling vulnerable and couldn't help wondering what it would have been like for me to try to deal with something like Katrina, and to try to protect and take care of my family in that situation, with even a minor health issue like the blood clot.

So it is interesting to be back and to have even a brief look around. We are scheduled fairly tightly, but a small group of us plan to walk down to Jackson Square in the morning for beignets at the Cafe du Monde. That's near the levee along the Mississippi River, which is said to be about as high and running as strong as it ever does just now. I hope to get some good photos in the morning before we go back into another day of meetings.

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