"It was time. It was meant to be. From the day I started working at the Red Cross way up here in Maryland, I knew I had to come see you. I started work on August 29th, 2005. While I screened many people for deployment in the days and weeks after, I didn't get to come see you myself, not until three weeks ago. I was sitting in my office the afternoon of Wednesday, March 1st, when in walks Judy, my Emergency Services director. "Do you want to go to New Orleans for 3 weeks?" When do I have to let you know? "In the next 10 minutes." Just like that, bam, I was there less than 2 days later. The following morning, I was out on a feeding truck in the lower 9th ward seeing the devastation firsthand. Life comes at you fast, as I'm sure you know.
So dear nola, you have given me the experience of a lifetime and I hope I have given you something back. I have seen your spirit in your people, working daily to rebuild their lives, their homes, their communities, their city. I can recall the moment I knew you would come back. I was talking with a resident of Violet out in St. Bernard's Parish about kids riding bikes, and flowers, and mowing the lawn. I told him how inspiring it is to see such things because it's a sign that people have time and energy to care about the little things, that they have pride their parish and hope for the future. Here's what he said back to that. This was the kicker.
"Katrina ain't killin' nothin'"
That's so true. That's why I believe in you and will fight to make sure you're rebuilt stronger and better than ever before. Anyone who can say that money would be wasted on levees or community revitalization has surely never gotten their hands dirty serving hot jambalaya and snack bags and comfort kits to your people, has surely never eaten etouffee or beignets in the French Quarter, has surely never skipped down Bourbon Street after too many hurricanes to drink.
I just got back from my first visit to see you, and you know I'll be back. I believe in you and love you too much to stay away."
I have lived in the Bywater, the ninth ward, in New Orleans for almost a year now. I am not so naive these days but I don't love New Orleans any less. I'm going to be an elementary special education teacher in the fall and to do that I've accepted a scholarship that commits me to three years of teaching in New Orleans. I had no second thoughts about making that commitment, and no second thoughts either last week when I bought a fleur de lis ring to wear where most would wear a wedding ring.
I'm not going anywhere.