• The 2006 Weblog Awards

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New Orleans Memories

Last night, I was frantically looking through a number of my CDs for pictures from my trip to New Orleans last summer.  I was so happy to find them and only wish I had taken more - most of mine were from the convention I was participating in. 

I’ll admit, I’m a pretty sentimental person.  Watching the news last night, a sense of profound sadness really washed over me as the images of the convention center area moved across the television screen.  You see, I was in New Orleans on business last year, participating in a very large convention.  I stayed at the Mariott at the Convention Center and walked the few blocks between the hotel and the convention center every day.  Seeing the images of death and despair touched me even more strongly than I imagined.  This is more like the Convention Center I remember:

This is the "lobby" of the Center - which many of the survivors were in to get out of the scorching sun.  The Convention Center is a grand place - many rooms and a huge convention floor.  There wasn’t a single time I was greeted by the convention center staff with any less than friendliness and hospitality.

Having a chance to work at the Convention Center was nice, and I had the luxury of spending quite a few hours at the New Orleans information booth.  This was a booth right at the entrance of the Convention Center that was staffed by New Orleans convention center employees and event staff together.  In these hours, I worked with a couple of incredible women who told me all the places and things I should see in New Orleans, if I could get a chance.  They were the ones that helped me make the decision to go to Jacque Imo’s - which ended up being my favorite restaurant during my trip.  They were the ones that made the day a little easier.  Not only were they extremely hospitable, but extremely funny and always true "ladies."  I loved hearing about their families.  I especially loved watching them work their customers.  The most angry or upset customer would be turned around, merely by their charm.  They also knew their stuff.  They could get a person to the right place in a heartbeat.  If a person came up and asked what a good restaurant would be, they’d know what questions to ask and could give great advice.  People would come up to them the next day and thank them for their advice, and ask for more advice for dinner that night. 

But now, when I think of the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, I think of these wonderful ladies and wonder if they were able to get out of there safely and if their family was able to get out.  I wonder if they will return to their city once they can, or if they will choose to live elsewhere.  I imagine their hearts break 100 times more than mine when they see the footage on television. 

Ladies - I pray you are safe and that you have the strength to move on with your lives.  I hope your grand babies and your family members are all safe, too.  You will be in my thoughts and prayers!

I also think of the restaurants we went to (of course Jacque Imo’s as well as the Acme Oyster Bar in the French Quarter stand out in my mind) and wonder if they are still standing and if they will return.  I think about the river walk, which was a mall area that connected the convention center and the hotel.  I think about all of the businesses there that I bought my souveniers from and how they all faired in the hurricane.  I think about that poor sales guy at Clark’s.  After the first day standing on my feet on concrete flooring (I want to say it was a 13-14 hour day as I recall), I recognized that my shoes were not acceptable - I think it was the blisters that gave it away!  On a recommendation, I stopped by Clark’s and this sales guy brought out no less than 10 pair of shoes for me to try on, so I could get the best for my feet.  Those shoes are one of the best purchases I ever made.  It certainly made the rest of the cenvention more bearable, and I still wear them frequently.  They are one of the most comfortable pairs of shoes I have ever owned. 

Then there was the fudge place in the mall.  I had never seen a fudge company that actually sang while they prepared fudge.  They had a whole routine.  One night my boss and I stood there and watched them for about an hour (and of course had to buy fudge!).  The workers were young men and women with voices of angels.  You could tell they had fun at their jobs!  I hope they are all okay, too!

I know my memories of New Orleans are but a tiny spot in life, and I’m certainly not saying that this tragedy impacted me directly.  But it has truly given me some perspective on how enormous this tragedy is.  I was there for merely days.  A lifelong citizen - in any of the communities hit by Katrina - has lost something so significant I’m not sure how they could possibly shoulder the sadness.  But they will.  For those that don’t wish to return or rebuild, they will be welcomed in the many communities taking them in and they will start their lives over.  For those who want to stay, they will rebuild - better and stronger just to prove they can’t get beaten back by this tragedy - and they will welcome the rest of us when it is time to take advantage of their hospitality. 

Cotillion linked with Ordinary Heroes; Extraordinary Women
Girl on the Right linked with Ordinary Heroes; Extraordinary Women