After a long 13 hour car ride back to Winston-Salem, I have finally felt like I’ve had enough time to reflect on my experiences from the past week. I have taken away with me two major conclusions that really stuck out to me during my time in New Orleans and now that I am back home at Wake Forest. First of all, I learned so much about the amazing and resilient city of New Orleans and how much more still needs to be done there, and I also learned what it truly means to be a member of the Wake Forest Community.
These days, with our busy lives and schedules it is so easy to forget about what is still going on in New Orleans; I was aware that there was still work to be done, however I was unaware of the continuing gravity of the situation. After coming home and telling people about all the still-devastated areas of New Orleans and how much work still needs to be done, it was amazing to see how many people were shocked that the city wasn’t “back to normal” now. Although there are some areas such as the French Quarter and Downtown area which have more-or-less returned to pre-Katrina status, there are many others which still have an eerie feel to them, because it is not back to normal… it’s about as far from normal as you can get. People in the St. Bernard’s Parish, Lower Ninth Ward, even Lakeview (a middle-class neighborhood) are just moving home, or are living in trailers in front of their old houses, waiting for them to be gutted and fixed-up; some, but not many, businesses are opening up in these areas, and when you drive through these neighborhoods, it looks like the storm hit just a few weeks ago, not 2.5 years ago. That’s probably the scariest part… it’s been so long, yet there is still SO much to be done. However, it was made clear to us, that as long as groups like us continue to come down and help rebuild the city, it will start to fully return to the way it was within a few years.
After speaking with various New Orleaneans, it was also made clear to us, that the message we should and will bring back with us, is that even with all of this devastation in the surrounding neighborhoods of the city, New Orleans IS up and running. The only way that this city will continue to survive is if people continue to come and visit it… whether it be for service or tourism, it is truly an amazing city and no matter why you are visiting, it is a place that you can easily fall in love with. After only spending a few days there, I vowed to return to the Big Easy to do more service and help revive it to its full potential. Most of our group shared this same sentiment, and many of us hope to return together sometime during the upcoming summer.
Finally, this week has also shown me what it means to be part of the Wake Forest Community. The outreach and support that we received from Wake Forest alumni and parents while we were in New Orleans was truly amazing. It’s not often that someone is willing to bring in and feed 18 hungry college kids in their home or take them out to dinner. It made our experience in New Orleans that much more meaningful, because we realized that not only were we helping the community of New Orleans, but we were helping those of Wake Forest. It was great to feel such Demon Deacon pride as we helped out those in need! Thank you again to the Wake Forest alumni and families who met with us in New Orleans… we couldn’t be more grateful!!