Wabash Blogs Immersion 2008: Katrina
 

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Thoughts From Mike Kiram

The thought has crossed my mind more than once in the past five days that I very well could be on a beach right now—such ideas have a tendency of popping up during moments of particularly strenuous or disgusting exertions.  Earlier in the week, one of my fraternity brothers stopped me as we were replacing rotten roof boards to point out a little girl across the street who was playing with a Wall-Mart playground ball in front of her newly rebuilt home.  He said, “That, right there, is why I’m here.”  We stopped working for a couple minutes to watch her play from our rooftop perch across the street—the surprising thing being her utterly carefree demeanor in the midst of the lower 9th Ward devastation that surrounded her.  Her world was safe, and it was evident by the fact that she was at peace enough to play in her yard.  It was a profound moment that was made more poignant by the striking symbolism that the scene offered—a young girl, in the dawn of spring, in front of her new home.  It captured the essence of what we’re trying to provide with our efforts here in New Orleans: new beginnings.  Hope.

This instance is one of dozens that have provided reminders to all of us of why it is that we’ve chosen to spend our spring break in this wreck rather than at pristine ocean resorts or in exotic European cities.  It’s one of dozens of instances that have explained to us why it is that we’ve chosen to walk thirty feet in the air on rotted out rooftops instead of on white sand beaches; why we’ve chosen to swallow sawdust and shingle soot and mold every day of spring break instead of daiquiris and margaritas.  It doesn’t take a reflection and a blog, however, to know which was the better choice.  Because, for all the grueling, ten hour work days, for all the face fulls of two-and-a-half year old, wet garbage, for all the anxiety of clinging to sloping rooftops while trying to pound in nails and pull up shingles and rip out rotten rafters with only a hope and a prayer that we won’t fall thirty feet onto the concrete below, not one of the fifteen Wabash men  here would say that they’ve given more to this experience than what this experience has given to them.  If I live another hundred years I’ll never forget watching that little girl playing with her ball.  I’ll never forget the way that every car slows down on the street to honk and wave and say thank you to us as we try to piece together some stranger’s broken home.  And I’ll never forget how I felt when we first drove into the East Bank of New Orleans and witnessed the destruction that still lingers almost 40 months after the levies broke.  I say sincerely that the greatest sentiment I have with regards to this whole experience is that of gratitude.