On August 28, 2005 Hurricane Katrina destroyed the glorious city of New Orleans. This specific date will live on forever in my memory. I remember many of my teachers talking about the devastation, my parents trying to explain things to me, and watching the constant news and stories on television about everything that was happening. I helped raise money, food, and other living essentials for months, never once thinking I would have the chance to visit this city. Sure enough, four years later I started raising money and preparing to go to New Orleans along with 24 other students and adults from my church.
We left on a Sunday morning and we were gone for eleven days. We spent a total of six days on a bus to and from New Orleans. Once we actually got there we registered and after checking in to our hotel, we started our walk to the Super Dome where we worshipped with 38,000 other people. We did this for the four nights we were there. I had never been in a single building with that many people who were all there for the same reason. While we were in New Orleans I got to site see many things, become friends with people from around the country, praise my God, but most of all I had the chance to help the people of New Orleans rebuild their city and their lives.
Four years after the disaster, I never thought there would still be so many things left to clean up and restore in the city. Some service projects were to clean and build houses, and plant trees and flowers. My church was assigned to read to young students who were at least two years behind in their schooling. It was amazing to see the students’ eyes light up when they recognized a word I read or understood the story I was reading. After we were done reading to the students, we were able to tour the 9th Ward. This is the area directly behind the part of the levee that broke; it was the first and hardest place hit by the wall of water. As we drove by, we noticed houses that still had their windows boarded because the owners never came back. There were a few homes that were rebuilt on stilts, but other than that it was mainly empty lots that used to hold houses for families. I remember one spot in particular because there was a sidewalk and a few steps that lead up to what would have been a house, but there was no longer anything there. It was very emotional to see all this in person and to see how much destruction remains. The news doesn’t explain or show half of what has happened to this city. The only way to truly understand the hardships and suffering is to see it in person.
Throughout the trip I learned a great deal about myself; about my faith; about the history of New Orleans, and about how important it is to help others, no matter the circumstances. Along with learning more about myself, I grew very close to my peers who accompanied me on the trip. We experienced many laughs and many tears together. This was the best experience ever for me. I highly recommend visiting New Orleans and becoming involved in rebuilding the city. If the opportunity presented itself, I would return to New Orleans in a heartbeat to continue the rebuilding of this once great city, as so much work still remains to be completed.
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