I was first introduced to the scenic, exotic, and, unpredictable city of New Orleans as a seventh grader in middle school, at the young age of thirteen-years old. Going on a decision made by group majority, we settled on exploring the city for a weekend on a trip we made from our basecamp in Biloxi, Mississippi, our home at that time.
I first traveled to the Gulf Coast from Boston, Massachusetts during the month of June, for three weeks. We were on a mission trip to help rebuild, gut, and or clean whichever home or field we were sent to after the disastrous Hurricane Katrina had caused ruin through the region, however, not that weekend, that weekend was for appreciation and sightseeing. Our days were spent absorbing beautiful architecture, catching glimpses of cultures come together like no other place, and, of course, trying every possible local cuisine before we became stuffed. After exploring the area in and around New Orleans, and later falling for the city, I made sure to participate on the annual voyage to the region.
On my third and final mission trip, my freshman year of high school, the church that sponsored our trip from Massachusetts to the region was conveniently located a few short miles out of the city of New Orleans. We were to work directly with the people affected by the breaking of the levees. The words “flabbergasted” and “dumbfounded” did not, and still fail to describe my reaction to witnessing the conditions in which some people continued to live, even five years after the storm had arrived and gone.
Being desperate to return to the city of New Orleans for the first two years of my annual trips, I was caught in an utter state of awe at what I discovered after my wish was finally realized on the third time. Though each trip was meaningful in its own way, the last trip to the city amplified my desire to, one day, call New Orleans home; everything about the city called my name and begged me to stay: the people, it’s food, the ambiance and the mere pride of being from a specific city that promoted unity in diversity. In particular, it was one couple that did it for me. Though I do not remember their individual names, nor where they lived specifically in the Lower 9th Ward, I remember the Woodwright’s passionate stories about their struggles after the hurricane, their genuine expressions of love for each other, and, for the city they had called home for the entirety of their life.
Their story began when they were children. They, being childhood acquaintances, knew of each other growing up. They described their love for each other, as they grew older, just as they described their love for the city; it came as a slow realization, they knew it was something that would be there and theirs forever, no matter what happened, it was theirs all along and no one would ever take it away. As they told their story, the cliques unraveled, from their nervous first kiss, their memorable first date, the marvelous prom night and so on and so...