My Visit to New Orleans by Pattie Martin

About a year ago, one of my cousins sent out an email announcing we were going to have a family reunion in March of this year. I was excited because I have a great time whenever I'm around my family. I was even more excited to find out they had planned a destination reunion - New Orleans.

It had been years since I had been there. The last time was with my parents and brother when I was in high school. We stayed in a little hotel off the French Quarter and did all the things you do as a tourist: Ride the street car, eat beignet and watch the street performers. We even got to see a traditional New Orleans funeral procession with all the people dancing and playing instruments as they headed toward the cemetery.{}It was all pretty much just as I remembered. In fact, if you stay in the French Quarter area, you'd never know that seven years ago Hurricane Katrina killed thousands and wiped out portions of that city.This time around we ventured out of the area and headed towards the Lower 9th Ward. That's the area that was hit the hardest. I thought after all these years, we'd see SOME reminders of that devastating storm. I just wasn't prepared for how much still has to be done.We drove through what used to be neighborhoods but are now nothing more than empty lots with one or two houses that have been rebuilt in the past few years. You can see still see the sidewalks that went up to the homes that are no longer there. It was very spooky, but even more so, it was sad. One day this was a neighborhood of families...the next day, it was a ghost town.{}On some of the buildings that are still standing, you can actually see the markings that were put on by crews who checked to make sure there were no bodies inside. That really hit me hard. This is where innocent people died..somewhere they probably thought was the safest place they could be. I'm sure many of those folks felt like they had been abandoned when it was all said and done. The help didn't come as fast as it should have and many just gave up and left the city.I plan to return to New Orleans one day. It's a beautiful city with an amazing history, and I don't want anyone there to think they've been forgotten.