Saturday, January 14, 2006

Disaster Tourism

Tag on a house in Nola
Originally uploaded by sarahkate.
The last vacation Matt and I took together was our trip to New York for New Years 2002. That's right folks, we went right after 9-11. It was a great little vacation, we spent time partying with all of our friends in Brooklyn. It was definatly not one of those "Lets go to Ground Zero and gawk at the destruction" trips. I didn't think we needed to make the spot where thousands of people died a stop on our tour. Let the dead rest in peace.
Matt and I went to New Orleans this weekend to visit Kate and Eldon. Avoiding the disaster in New Orleans is impossible. Case in point, see the photo. Marks like this one are on every building in the city. Let me decipher for you: the number on the top (9-6) is the date of inspection of this particular edifice. On the left (Tx1) is the code for the unit (police, military, volunteer) that inspected the building. The letters on the right (NE) stand for any toxic or hazardous materials found on site, and the bottom (0- thankfully) is the body count.
These marks, as I said, are everywhere. They are unavoidable as you walk or drive through the city. I also noticed many buildings had HSUS- Humane Socitey spray-painted on them as well, along with animals sighted such as "Two cats seen, food and water left" and a date.
So many people were left homeless, so many animals left behind. The effects of the hurricane are in your face all over New Orleans. It was impossible to avoid the site of the disaster like we did in New York. I can't decide if this is a good thing or a bad one, but I did a lot more thinking about the people and pets affected by the hurricane in New Orleans than I had planned to do on my vacation.
When we see things on the news shows, and read about them in papers and on the internet we are so removed from the situation. Being there actually made me realise that this city has a ton of healing to do. I don't doubt that New Orleans will make a comeback. So many of the people who have returned are still in love with it, willing to rebuild and return to their lives. I wonder if St. Louis were similarly affected if most of us would have the heart and care enough to put forth the effort to bring our city back.
New Orleans is just as alive and beautiful as it was the last time I was there, and as cheesy as it sounds, that gives me hope.


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