Hope Remains Five Years Later

My blog, Experimental Mommy, just passed it’s second birthday.  As the site grows, I have had the privilege of traveling with the purpose of meeting bloggers, connecting with brands and honing my skills.  Most of the round table discussions begin with each person in attendance standing up and stating their name, blog name and where they come from.  It generally goes something like this:

Hi!  My name is Bridgette.  I blog at Experimental Mommy which is mainly a product review site with a scientific twist.  I am a Native New Orleanian and live with my husband and two daughters.”

And then it happens….I am answered with “the look.”  You know the look of which I am speaking….squinty sympathetic eyes, a meek smile, the head slightly cocked to the right, and a small nod as if to say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, honey.”  I have grown to become accustom to this look as I know the wearers mean no harm.  They are genuinely concerned for what happened to My City that fateful day nearly five years ago.  “The look” is almost always followed by “the question.”

“Are you still living in New Orleans?”

In my head, the answer goes something like this:

“Why yes, I do still live in New Orleans.  Why on Earth would I leave?  Where else could I sit outside while eating a beignet at midnight and listening to a lively brass band play “When the Saints Go Marching In?”  Where else could I take a steamboat ride on the Mississippi while sipping sweet tea and eating crawfish etouffee?  Where else could I walk down the street and see ten friends, three family members and our priest who all inquire “How’s your Mom and n’em’?”  Where else can I take my kids to a Mardi Gras parade, stand on the neutral ground and immerse them in the rich culture that is my City?”

But most of the time, I just smile and say, “Of course!  It’s great!  You should visit some time!”

Fleeing the Storm

My home, my place of business, my car and my city were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, but my spirit, my courage and my resilience were not.  Watching New Orleans fill with water from a hotel room in Shreveport, LA was no easy task.  Seeing my street on CNN was surreal.  But there was never a moment when my husband and I talked about not returning to our beloved city.  It was a matter of when we would return instead of if we would return.  Believe it or not, Hurricane Katrina brought out some good qualities in our city and it’s people.  I found strength within myself that I never knew existed.  I learned the generosity of friends, family and strangers could touch your soul.  I learned humility while standing in line for food stamps because we didn’t know when our next paycheck would arrive.  And I learned that the culture and history of New Orleans meant more to me than ever.  We just could not turn our back on the City.

I think Cowboy Mouth said it best in their song “The Avenue

And the marching bands will roll.  I’ll find my City in my Soul.  Because I plan on growing old on The Avenue.

I stay because New Orleans is a part of me.  It is in my soul.  Saying that I am from Nashville, Houston, or Atlanta, just isn’t………right.  I’m a New Orleanian.  I am resilient.  I am proud.  My City, my family, my soul is worth fighting for….how could I abandon it?  As soon as we were allowed back, we rolled up our sleeves, made some sweet tea, checked on our neighbors and started to rebuild our City even better than before.

Hope remains.

Five years (and one oil spill) later, I am proud to report that New Orleans is open for business.  There is evidence of progress around every corner largely because of the spirit of the natives and generosity of volunteers.  I have been fortunate enough to work with one of those companies that truly has made a difference in our area, Tide.  A few short weeks after Hurricane Katrina sank our City, Tide rolled in with the Loads of Hope truck housing 32 energy-efficient washer and dryers.  Volunteers washed, dried and folded clothes (up to 300 loads a day!) for the victims of the Storm for FREE.  In a City where many people were suddenly homeless, this was a priceless service.  Since Katrina, Tide Loads of Hope has traveled the country to help people in need.  From the floods in Nashville to the Red River flooding in Fargo, from the path of Hurricane Ike to the fires in San Diego, Tide Loads of Hope has washed over 30,000 loads of laundry for victims of natural disasters.

I am happy to announce that Tide Loads of Hope will be celebrating their Fifth Anniversary here in New Orleans at the Mahalia Jackson Theater with a FREE concert by the new Tide Loads of Hope Ambassador, Faith Hill!  The concert will be held on Tuesday, August 24th at 8pm and tickets can be won on the following radio stations:

WNOE  –  (101.1  New Orleans), WLMG – (101.9  New Orleans), WYNK – (101.5  Baton Rouge), WYPY – (100.7  Baton Rouge), KRVE – (96.1  Baton Rouge), WTQT-FM  (94.9  Baton Rouge), KMDL – (97.3  Lafayette), WJKK – (98.7  Jackson), WUSJ –  (96.3  Jackson), WZKX – (107.9  Biloxi)

Do you have your own story of courage and resilience?  How have you dealt with and overcome tragedy in your own life?  What would you do if a natural disaster destroyed your life?  Share your thoughts at the Hope Remains blog carnival over at Story Bleed!

33 thoughts on “Hope Remains Five Years Later”

  1. After visiting NOLA for the few time this summer I understand what you mean when you say it’s in your soul. I’ve never been to a city that I wanted to return to as much as New Orleans and am so happy I’ve had the opportunity. EVERYONE should visit and fall in love as I did with an incredibly resilient and amazing place. I can’t wait to take my family in the future!

  2. I don’t know if I knew you were from there or not..how lucky! I mean not because of the storm but to live in a place so full of..everything.I have been dying to go there for years and one day I will.Save me some jambalaya and a spot for Mardi Gras!I remember being outraged at how things were done,how long it took and the general screw ups involved (ahem empty trailers sitting for months while people were without homes) Congrats on being strong and standing up for who you are and where you’re from!

  3. I read your post earlier today and decided to come because it really touched me. I can’t believe it has been 5 years and I think the people of New Orleans have touched the world over the past few years!

  4. I have never been but have always wanted to go. There is just something sop mysterious and fun about NOLA and I have always wanted to experience it…some day I guess.

    So lucky that you get to live there!

  5. I am still routing for Nola and glad I had the chance to visit this fab city and meet you this summer. While I have been thru several hurricanes in the past couple years, I have not had to deal personally with the devastation like New Orleans.

  6. I have never been to New Orleans but I definitely want to visit. I think it is great that you stayed. It is a part of who you are and there is nothing wrong with that.

  7. When I visited NOLA I fell in love with it. I wouldn’t really want to live there, but it was definitely a place I want to visit again and again.

  8. Congrats on your blogiversary! New Orleans has always seemed like such a rich and gorgeous city to me. Ive never been there but I love knowing that passionate New Orleanians like yourself are there to stay!

  9. What a fantastic post. Only a few months before Katrina, Ivan hit Pensacola – where I live and destroyed our entire city. The stories of the weeks following Ivan resemble so many of those post-Katrina, though we were not nearly as publicized. Our city bonded together, helping each other with food or water or chainsaws – whatever was needed. It was amazing to see in such unbelievable devastation how strangers could come together in tragedy.

    As soon as Katrina hit, we lost ALL of our workers, adjusters, funding… everything. Everyone went to NOLA, and understandably so. It was as if we were just forgotten about. We had damage from Katrina as well, though to watch the news, no one would ever know it. However the strength of our city showed in the stories of recovery and perseverance when we had nothing to rely on but ourselves. It makes me proud to be a part of the Gulf Coast – I truly believe we are the strongest and proudest region in the country.

    Great post, sometimes we need a reminder of where we have been, to appreciate where we are.

  10. What a well written post. I LOVE NOLA. I visited once before Katrina and several times after and I love it. Beignets, fried green tomatoes, music, Harry Connick Jr. and friendly people!

  11. After spending a summer in NO when I was 16, it is my lifes goal to move there. I really loved it and I cannot wait to return. NOLA is a really special place that you will never truly understand until you see it for yourself. I have attempted to replicate Cafe du Monde’s Beignets but mine pale in comparison 🙁 Mine are delicious but not THAT delicious!

  12. Your story just gave me chills. I awe of the strength and resilience of people who survive such catastrophic events. I can only hope that should I ever find myself in a similar set of circumstances, that I will meet it head on with the same courage.

    I would so love to visit NOLA one of these days!

  13. Beautiful, beautiful post; I was in my first year teaching when Katrina hit — and, as I was teaching in Houston, had a lot of NOLA students in my classroom because of it. It was amazing how proud these students were of their city — even after some of the horrific things they had been through. Reading this post explains that pride a little more.

  14. how could i forget the red roof inn in shreveport. i remember going to the local library to use e-mail to find family members, and to cancel my wedding. thanks for getting us the room. and for standing in the wedding later in may! you are an awesome friend.

  15. What a wonderful post. I think it’s amazing that you stayed and think it’s people like you who will help get the city back on it’s feet. Your post takes out any uncertainty I had of traveling to New Orleans and hope to get there again with my family some day soon.

    Also, I’m glad you shared what Tide is doing to help. I didn’t know about any of this and am so glad to hear that such a big company cared enough to pitch in to make a difference. Good for them!

  16. This is a great post Bridgette and I wanted to add a better comment but honestly I just don’t know what to say other than this is really a great post. I can feel your love for the City and I think that’s what makes such a great post … the genuine feeling that goes into it.

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