The sidewalks of New Orleans started off slow today; it could be everyone is getting a last start after the football game last night or it could be the light rain. I attended the Share the Moon event at Le Petit Theatre & Jackson Square. Honorable Mitchell J. Landrieu provided the welcome to the event and there were several presentations thorough out with presentations by representatives from the New Orleans Police and Fire Departments, New Orleans Emergency Services and other guest speakers.
But it wasn’t all about the tragedy and devastation that Katrina caused, but a look at the future and all that has been accomplished since then. Of special importance was the look at the community resilience and survival and new life that has begun in New Orleans since.
The SPCA and Audubon Zoo presented on Caring for Animals both after Katrina and now.
It wouldn’t be New Orleans without food and music. Nirvana Restaurant and Ben and Jerry’s were present as well as performances by local singers and dancers, like the Full Steam Brass Band, Jo “Cool” Davis and the Cross Roads Ceili Band and New Orleans Irish Set Dancers.
Moments of silence were scheduled throughout the day to also remember and honor those that lost their lives during this terrible tragedy, in particular the police and firefighters who died rescuing approximately 19,000 inhabitants or while performing hazardous duties immediately after in the city of New Orleans.
The stories they told were compelling, heartbreaking and yet full of hope about the goodness of people. So far this has been a real roller coaster ride for the emotions as you realize the sadness of the losses, but celebrate their heroism and exactly how far New Orleans has come since Katrina. In between presentations you could visit with the animals from the zoo, grab a bite to eat or simply enjoy some jazz music.
By late afternoon the streets were filled with rain poncho wearing and umbrella carrying people who weren’t going to let a constant down pour ruin their time here in New Orleans.
Later that night I attended a neighborhood event at the Fair Grinds Coffee House, which serves only Fair Trade and organic coffees and teas and where everyone there from the owner and his wife to the other patrons make you feel like they have known you forever. I met a local cinematographer who moved here from Senegal and an aspiring opera tenor. Not only did we enjoy some amazing coffee and lemonade but the cookies were handmade and seemed almost as big as a personal pizza.
Visitors in this little community coffee house gather to sit in a corner alone and sew, read or write, dream dreams or share a game of Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit. This is a very different place from 5 years ago. After returning from his evacuation to Houston during Hurricane Katrina he found his building in shambles. But these very same neighbors who visit there to have a cup of coffee now, were right there then helping him get rid of his refrigerator, the damages to his building and rebuild. Now together it serves as a spot to read, relax, socialize, learn about community artist and even listen to a poetry reading. Five years later it is a place where everyone does know your name and after my evening there I am so glad they do.
Next, Crescent City Brewhouse after all a reporter has to eat!
Associated Content Live Report from New Orleans: Hurricane Katrina 5 Year Anniversary
Telling the Stories of Katrina Five Years After the Storm
Murdered Pets in New Orleans Schools Post Katrina