My blog, Experimental Mommy, just passed it’s second birthday. As the site grows, I have had the privilege of traveling with the purpose of meeting bloggers, connecting with brands and honing my skills. Most of the round table discussions begin with each person in attendance standing up and stating their name, blog name and where they come from. It generally goes something like this:
“Hi! My name is Bridgette. I blog at Experimental Mommy which is mainly a product review site with a scientific twist. I am a Native New Orleanian and live with my husband and two daughters.”
And then it happens….I am answered with “the look.” You know the look of which I am speaking….squinty sympathetic eyes, a meek smile, the head slightly cocked to the right, and a small nod as if to say, “Oh, I’m so sorry, honey.” I have grown to become accustom to this look as I know the wearers mean no harm. They are genuinely concerned for what happened to My City that fateful day nearly five years ago. “The look” is almost always followed by “the question.”
“Are you still living in New Orleans?”
In my head, the answer goes something like this:
“Why yes, I do still live in New Orleans. Why on Earth would I leave? Where else could I sit outside while eating a beignet at midnight and listening to a lively brass band play “When the Saints Go Marching In?” Where else could I take a steamboat ride on the Mississippi while sipping sweet tea and eating crawfish etouffee? Where else could I walk down the street and see ten friends, three family members and our priest who all inquire “How’s your Mom and n’em’?” Where else can I take my kids to a Mardi Gras parade, stand on the neutral ground and immerse them in the rich culture that is my City?”
But most of the time, I just smile and say, “Of course! It’s great! You should visit some time!”
My home, my place of business, my car and my city were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, but my spirit, my courage and my resilience were not. Watching New Orleans fill with water from a hotel room in Shreveport, LA was no easy task. Seeing my street on CNN was surreal. But there was never a moment when my husband and I talked about not returning to our beloved city. It was a matter of when we would return instead of if we would return. Believe it or not, Hurricane Katrina brought out some good qualities in our city and it’s people. I found strength within myself that I never knew existed. I learned the generosity of friends, family and strangers could touch your soul. I learned humility while standing in line for food stamps because we didn’t know when our next paycheck would arrive. And I learned that the culture and history of New Orleans meant more to me than ever. We just could not turn our back on the City.
I think Cowboy Mouth said it best in their song “The Avenue”
“And the marching bands will roll. I’ll find my City in my Soul. Because I plan on growing old on The Avenue.“
I stay because New Orleans is a part of me. It is in my soul. Saying that I am from Nashville, Houston, or Atlanta, just isn’t………right. I’m a New Orleanian. I am resilient. I am proud. My City, my family, my soul is worth fighting for….how could I abandon it? As soon as we were allowed back, we rolled up our sleeves, made some sweet tea, checked on our neighbors and started to rebuild our City even better than before.
Five years (and one oil spill) later, I am proud to report that New Orleans is open for business. There is evidence of progress around every corner largely because of the spirit of the natives and generosity of volunteers. I have been fortunate enough to work with one of those companies that truly has made a difference in our area, Tide. A few short weeks after Hurricane Katrina sank our City, Tide rolled in with the Loads of Hope truck housing 32 energy-efficient washer and dryers. Volunteers washed, dried and folded clothes (up to 300 loads a day!) for the victims of the Storm for FREE. In a City where many people were suddenly homeless, this was a priceless service. Since Katrina, Tide Loads of Hope has traveled the country to help people in need. From the floods in Nashville to the Red River flooding in Fargo, from the path of Hurricane Ike to the fires in San Diego, Tide Loads of Hope has washed over 30,000 loads of laundry for victims of natural disasters.
I am happy to announce that Tide Loads of Hope will be celebrating their Fifth Anniversary here in New Orleans at the Mahalia Jackson Theater with a FREE concert by the new Tide Loads of Hope Ambassador, Faith Hill! The concert will be held on Tuesday, August 24th at 8pm and tickets can be won on the following radio stations:
WNOE – (101.1 New Orleans), WLMG – (101.9 New Orleans), WYNK – (101.5 Baton Rouge), WYPY – (100.7 Baton Rouge), KRVE – (96.1 Baton Rouge), WTQT-FM (94.9 Baton Rouge), KMDL – (97.3 Lafayette), WJKK – (98.7 Jackson), WUSJ – (96.3 Jackson), WZKX – (107.9 Biloxi)
Do you have your own story of courage and resilience? How have you dealt with and overcome tragedy in your own life? What would you do if a natural disaster destroyed your life? Share your thoughts at the Hope Remains blog carnival over at Story Bleed!