Wabash Blogs Immersion 2008: Katrina

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Thoughts From Homer Twigg

Today was spent attempting to roof a house without shingles. All the logistics went south. Nothing was on time. We were at a loss for tools. People were beginning to wear under the long tenure of the beating sun. What should be beautiful, peaceful weather was easily made more harsh and unfriendly by standing on a roof.

            With this said, standing on the roof today and laying shingles was a new perspective on the city—like the gospel of John as a radical perspective on a familiar topic of the Gospel. I’ve been here before. It’s the same New Orleans I’ve seen on Bourbon Street, or mulling around the market, or taking a taxi cab tour through all of the damage. Some people will tell you that the city is still in shambles, and it still is. But the difference is that whereas two years ago, and maybe even six months ago New Orleans was a disjointed city of lost people searching for their home that floated away. Nobody knew who was who, and people were moving into devastated houses that they didn’t own before the storm.

            Today on the roof, I realized that was in the past. The next phase in the rebuilding of New Orleans is not structural but societal. Today I saw lawns being mowed, people riding bikes, flowers being planted, and little old women standing outside just talking to one another. The neighborhood was coming back. You can’t get the materials for that at Home Depot, and no federal loan can bring it back. Neighborhoods are mystical bonds of people who are actually interested in one another. I don’t know my neighbors at home. A lot of people don’t. But on top of the roof, I got to see the larger picture…a community coming back together. It was in this brief moment of clarity that I began to see that I came back to New Orleans perhaps not for rebuilding, or Jesus, but because the community of people living together to improve living conditions has a byproduct of communal joy that is unique and transcendent throughout the whole city. That’s why people come back to New Orleans, resident and volunteer alike…because the people here with big hearts make rebuilding look easy.