Katrina Anniversary
Published Aug 2006

By Don Redman

About a month after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I was asked to write a column to update readers with the recovery effort. I was more than happy to oblige, but the assignment turned out to be much more daunting than I had expected.

It was indeed hard to see the good side of the city while immersed in personal rebuilding efforts following the storm. But with the arrival of the year anniversary of Katrina, I have vowed to focus my remembrances on the positive events.

I am thankful that my family survived the storm in tact. Our property my have not fared as well, but we are all together. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau (NOCVB) has coined a new phrase to describe influx of helper –“voluntourism.”

I also tip my hat to those visitors to the New Orleans area who are here merely to pass a good time. Yes, despite the negative images that have been replayed across the nation on this anniversary, New Orleans is still a great vacation destination with world-class restaurants, hotels and attractions.

On a recent excursion to downtown New Orleans with my young daughter, I met a married couple from Wisconsin at a streetcar stop. It was their first trip to New Orleans and they said they came to offer their moral support to the city (and, of course, to see the devastation first-hand), adding that they nonetheless felt guilty that they weren’t doing more to help. I assured them that their mere presence was more than greatly appreciated – it was desperately needed.

According to NOCVB, eight of 10 jobs in New Orleans are tied directly or indirectly to tourism. So, even a simple weekend sleeping, eating and shopping in New Orleans is helping the city recover from the storm and it serves as a testament to others that New Orleans is still a vibrant, fun-filled city.

The fun also extends to children. I knew we were on the road to recovery when I heard the squeals of laughter at the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans. That same laughter echoed across the Audubon Zoo, the Aquarium of the Americas and along the coast at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center, Gulf Islands Waterpark and Stennis Space Center’s StenniSphere. The noted theologian Karl Barth once said, “Laughter is the closest thing to the grace of God.” I couldn’t agree more.

The tragedy from Katrina will continue to get top billing in national media, but often lost in the coverage is the many good things going on in the city and along the coast, including:

  • Earlier this summer the former National D-Day Museum changed its name (literally by an act of Congress) to the National WW II Museum. This November the museum will host the International Conference on World War II. Leading authors, historians and journalists including Walter Cronkite, Madeleine Albright, Andy Rooney and James Bradley along with more than 100 veteran panelists will examine World War II: why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today. Noted documentary filmmaker Ken Burns will preview his latest project focusing on World War II.

  • Beginning this fall three luxury liners will be sailing from New Orleans. Carnival Cruise Line announced that the Carnival Fantasy, which carries 2,056 passengers, will launch year-round four- and five-day western Caribbean cruises from the port, beginning Oct. 26. The company will become the Port of New Orleans’ number one cruise operator when it deploys a second year-round ship to New Orleans next year, the 2,758-passenger ship Triumph. The Norwegian Sun returns to its winter home at the Port of New Orleans on Oct. 15, and Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas will resume sailing from New Orleans beginning Dec. 2.

  • The Port of New Orleans has surpassed pre-Katrina cargo tonnage rates, up more than 4 percent compared to the same period’s average over the last four years. The port achieved the milestone, despite losing nearly 25 percent of its facilities located along the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal and the Mississippi River - Gulf Outlet, which received serious flood and wind damage.

  • For many locals, Sept. 25 looms larger than Katrina’s anniversary date. That’s when the New Orleans Saints return to the Superdome for the first time since the hurricane. We have a love/hate relationship with our NFL franchise team, but we have stuck with them through thick and thin. Despite the fact that it’s a rebuilding year with new players and coaching staff, advance ticket sales have been very brisk.

  • Casinos are up and running on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and more are opening soon. By late this fall as many as 10 casinos are expected to be open for business, and by the end of 2007, there could be as many as 17 casino resorts along the coast.

Regardless of your intentions for wanting to come here–whether a to help residents or churches rebuild, or whether simply for pleasure–we thank you. A million times over.

Above: At play at the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Louisiana Office of Tourism photo

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