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  • It’s been three years since I moved to New Orleans and seven since the hurricane that shared my name came roaring through. We both came to the city in the middle of August in the worst of the heat and humidity. I'd never sweat so much in my life by just standing still. With every drop I could feel my confidence in moving across the country seeping out of me.

    I had told everyone back home that I was coming to the city to make an impact, a new Katrina to clean up the mess from the old one. It was a naive bravado that I never believed no matter how often I repeated it. But I wore it like armor against the lashes of my friends and family who thought I'd gone crazy. They all had their opinions of the city but not one of them had been there since the storm and none of them had ever ventured outside of the French Quarter when they had. Some things they said were true, especially where it concerned me personally. The lack of security; my AmeriCorps volunteer position with a non-profit wasn't going to be glamorous and it wasn't going to pay for anything more than rent and food. But when they spoke of the city, it was all false assumptions pieced together from second hand tales of Mardi Gras and poor 24-hour news coverage of the aftermath that spoke loudly but said little. Every one of them thought they knew what was waiting for me when I reached the city. But I had no idea.

    I went at this change with the same gusto I have made all my major life decisions: with little preparation and a head first zeal that always leaves me tripping over myself. New Orleans was foreign, another time, another country, and another place altogether different from any I had been to before. New Orleans was a mean bitch that could love you one moment and slap you the next without blinking. New Orleans was me.

    I found myself in the old architecture that was a little more shabby then chic. My soul mate appeared in every ragged old-man wearing a dapper suit and nursing the bottle in bars steeped in jazz tradition and memories so thick you could feel them in the hundred years of smoke haze that hung in the air. I found little bits and pieces of me tucked away in every nook and cranny. This city was my home.

    I embraced her with trepidation and she did the same to me. She was still wary of the other Katrina. You never had to go far to see the reminders of that other Katrina.

    She remained in the faint water line across a window, the empty foundations, and in a sign outside an empty school, its welcome to students who would never return disappearing one letter at a time. She remained in the conscious of everything.

    By time I arrived the worst of it was gone but Katrina had left her mark and while I would do everything I could to wipe it clean, she would forever remain in the city that was.

    But New Orleans is stronger than brick, wood, or water. The city’s heart lies not in its infrastructure but the souls of those who seek its spirit, who thrill in its music, and move to the currents of the Mississippi. That was the New Orleans I could be a part of. This metaphysical city where the band plays on and the bar never runs dry.

    I still have big dreams and big hopes for this small town. We are both still here, Katrina and I, but I am determined to outlast her. And to all of the others who come to this city with big dreams, big hopes, and a craving to belong:

    Welcome back it is going to be a great year.
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