Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Katrinas' Blessings

Usually when people talk about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath of flooding and devastation for the Gulf South, particularly New Orleans, they emphasized the -- very real -- tragedy of it all.  I want to talk about the blessings, just as real, it has brought.

It was with a feeling of new possibilities that my family returned in late 2005 to our ruined city, confident that we would help to rebuild it better.  We desperately needed political, judicial, and educational reform.  I was bitterly disappointed as one after another old problem crept back in.  Crime and corruption seemed as rampant as ever and the bad old days seemed to be back to stay.

In the last year, though, I've come to realize that I was wrong.  Reform is taking hold; it just didn't happen as fast as I thought it would.  It takes years to turn around a system so broken, decades even, but it's already starting to show.

Moving Slide Into Place
Around the corner from our house is a school that was scary bad before the storm.  It was a middle school (grades 6 - 8) with poor discipline, failing students, a crumbling building.  Now it is an elementary school, grades K - 8. 

When it first reopened, it seemed to be more of the same.  During morning arrival and afternoon dismissal, slouching kids would loiter around the entrance.  Their dress was slovenly, they would litter on the street, and the way the boys talked to the girls -- so disrespectful.

In the last two years, there has been a change for the better.  In the mornings and afternoons, teachers are outside smiling and chatting with the children, parents, and bus drivers.  The kids are mannerly and pleasant to the neighbors.  Academics are measurably improved.  The principal doesn't crow about the achievement gains, though, because she's not satisfied with where they are -- yet.

Painting a Really Cool Hop Scotch Board

Yesterday, the neighborhood and school communities united to build a new playground and generally spruce up the place.  Two wealthy local families footed the bill and KaBoom! organized the almost 600 volunteers to turn barren concrete into a great place for children to play and learn.  

Starting to Look Like Something!
It was amazing to meet the teachers, parents, and kiddos and peek into some of the classrooms.  (kindergarten -- my fave!)  This school could not have existed 5 years ago.  And now it's only one of many.  If this trend holds, it's no exaggeration to say that even my dreams for a transformed city will be realized.


  1. That's interesting and quite encouraging. It'd be fantastic to see New Orleans come back even stronger.

  2. Yes! And if you do, please let me know. Although my family doesn't know about my blog, I'll explain our to them.


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