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Louisiana Warmth This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Four years ago, the walls tumbled down. Water poured over and through the levees washing away everything in its path. People's lives changed forever. New Orleans changed forever.

However, the roaring spirit of this city did not change. The hospitality and optimism of the residents remain.

The French Quarter was spared the intense wrath of Hurricane Katrina. It is a lively area filled with jazz, jambalaya, and a nonstop party atmosphere. The infamous Bourbon Street is the life of the party and attracts hordes of tourists. From the outside looking in, citizens of New Orleans seem to live amidst one big party. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for most.

As a visitor to New Orleans, I expected to leave the airport and ­immediately be immersed in a swampland of crumbling buildings. That was not the case ­either, but the damage still evident today is shocking.

People stand outside of what is left of their homes with hammers in hand ready to take on the project of rebuilding. Bridges that collapsed into the lake have not been rebuilt. Neighborhoods were wiped blank leaving only rotting remnants of buildings. And this is four years later.

Some sections of New Orleans were flooded under 14 feet of water. A local lovingly called “Uncle Dave” ­described New Orleans after the hurricane: “When we were allowed to come back into the city, it looked like a nuclear explosion had hit and we were the only survivors in the world.” The residents of New Orleans felt out of touch and alone in the world. Minimum aid was given to the city, which is why, four years later, it still looks as if the hurricane just hit.

This does not discourage the people of New Orleans, though. Their Southern hospitality, ­generosity, and welcoming spirit never wanes.

A small barber shop hidden in the folds of the French Quarter is adorned with a rainbow sign that reads Head-Quarters. The walls are lined with pictures of Marilyn Monroe. The talented hairdressers have worked on Broadway and traveled the world, but as one worker, Grant, said, “I arrived back in Louisiana because I just missed the Louisiana warmth.” Louisiana warmth is a magic that encompasses everyone who lives in and visits the state, and not even a hurricane can blow that away.

Ricky, the shop owner, described a second tragedy residents had to face. “We all just finished rebuilding our homes with new sheetrock. Finally everything seemed to be back to normal. Unfortunately, we were then told that the sheetrock was emitting toxic fumes. I was afraid to check my walls. I didn't want to have to tear my house down and start all over again.” However, he said this with an attitude of acceptance and continued with his work, as if tearing down his house had just been a passing thought.

So the walls came crashing down once again, but this time not from the force of water pushing in, but from the people pushing back.

The people in New Orleans have a determination that is rarely seen. To an outsider, this lifestyle of nonstop partying may appear wasteful. However, there is a lot of substance to the city. People make the choice to celebrate what they have instead of focusing on what they have lost. They embrace the ability to celebrate and live in the ­moment. This is Louisiana warmth.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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doctorj2u said...
Sept. 17, 2009 at 6:23 pm
You have a lot of wisdom for one so young. New Orleans does live and has its priorities straight and true. Thank you.
 
Emma C. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 19, 2009 at 10:29 pm
Thank you.
 
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