It’s been 9 years today since Katrina made landfall on the Gulf’s coast. By the time it reached New Orleans, winds were estimated to have been Category 1 or 2 but then the levees failed and all hell broke loose. And then the world watched on TV as Americans stood on rooftops for days begging for water and worse and worse and worse. The Superdome became a symbol for loss, despair and failures at every level. It only took 4 1/2 years to change the Superdome into a house of triumph and a symbol of rebirth, renewal and rebuilding. The Dome, and all it represents, have become part of this city’s story and what better way to celebrate how far we’ve come than to go to a Saints game with the Rebirth Brass Band kicking things off in Champions Square.
Last night was the last preseason game and for those who don’t know football, it’s usually not about winning or losing – it’s about who’s going to make the team. The Dome wasn’t particularly packed and lots of us left early but 2 guys from London sat next to us and I was struck with the reach of the Katrina/Saints/Dome story and the hope and enthusiasm it inspired far beyond our borders.
With the game being mostly an audition, the best part of the night was probably the free concert beforehand. The Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band is certainly one of our city’s finest groups of musicians. But, more than that – they are a joy-machine cranking out originals and standards that make hips move, toes tap and smiles spread.
The band took a short break and we were treated to a routine by the Saintsations. The newly-selected 40 year old dancer was featured front and center. Maybe I’m just in a sentimental mood but it struck me that she too symbolizes this city in many ways. New Orleans is an indomitable, sexy, “mature” city full of spirit. We’re gearing up to celebrate our tricentennial in 2018 and we take pride in our old buildings and traditions. Newer and younger are not “better” here. I think that’s one reason why the Storm here was so much more dramatic than say the ’94 quake in L.A. It’s not a shame to replace a new building with another new building, but it’s a travesty to watch something storied and haunted with memories wash away.
The guys from England had been in several U.S. cities. They said they had loved each one and each time wished to stay longer but, New Orleans was their absolute favorite. They loved the food and the music and the friendly folk. I’ve traveled the world and New Orleans is and has always been my favorite city on the planet. Dancing to Rebirth and cheering on my Saints are 2 of my favorite things to do in the world. So, as the eerie rain moves in today and threatens to douse a parade scheduled for 7pm, I feel grateful for amazing music and food, for the Saints and their part in this place’s story and for the city of New Orleans – the resilient soul of this nation.