I was in New Orleans for the first time a year after Hurricane Katrina. I went to my niece's graduation from Tulane University. Water lines were still clearly seen, signs of the destruction were still everywhere - and only one streetcar was running at the time. Despite all of that, the soul of the city was strong, and I went away thinking the people who lived there were some of the most genuinely nice people I had ever met.
Katrina became a storm like we'd never seen before. It was terrible in the way it happened, and the way it was handled. Today New Orleans is different, forever changed. There are so many who didn't go back, or couldn't go back. It's important we remember New Orleans, and the people who were there, and the ones who still are. They have faced other battles too, but they always display courage.
As I get closer to heading off to New Orleans again - for that same niece's wedding this time - I'm excited to see it again five years later. With its distinct architecture, jambalaya, poboys, gumbo, and beignets with chicory coffee - and that Dixieland, jazz, and Zydeco music - there's really no other place quite like it on earth.
Healing is a long process, but with a city like New Orleans, it will not only continue to heal, but thrive again in the process. And it will hopefully never lose sight of the unique spirit and character that make it so special.