Your e-mails: City's heart is in its people
CNN.com users on reviving the spirit of New Orleans
(CNN) -- As New Orleans residents begin the painstaking task of rebuilding their hurricane-ravaged city, many wonder: What will the new New Orleans be like?
CNN.com asked readers whether New Orleans will ever be the same and what would need to be saved or rebuilt to maintain the spirit of the city. Here is a sampling of those responses, some of which have been edited:
I don't think that New Orleans will ever be the same. I was born and raised there and recently moved to Jacksonville in 2003. There are many unique things to New Orleans; however, after such destruction many things will have to change. The only area of town that seemed to be spared the worse of the destruction is the French Quarter. To be honest, what made the French Quarter were all the "unique" people trying to hustle a dollar. There will be no more kids tap dancing on the corners, no mimes standing in a frozen pose, and no more crowds like they used to have.
New Orleans doesn't need to be rebuilt. That overstates the issue dramatically. But if we are to repair New Orleans, then we must do so beyond the physical damage and the resulting flooding and looting. New Orleans must be repaired socially, financially, and environmentally as well. Otherwise, New Orleans will not be able to weather the next storm.
Ideally, this would be the perfect opportunity to use all of the wonderful technology available to us (construction and civil engineering, levee systems, etc.) that companies have spent billions in R&D on to rebuild New Orleans bigger and better than before. The unfortunate reality of the situation is that New Orleans is completely lost. It may be rebuilt elsewhere, but it won't be New Orleans. We should learn from this lesson and be ready for the next disaster that may occur (i.e., earthquake in San Francisco).
Emotionally, the city will never the same, and this will trickle into its physical reconstruction. The slums and previously deteriorated portions of the city will now have an opportunity to rebuild and be stronger. We now know the most vulnerable portions of the city and should not rebuild where lightning could strike twice with ease. I would suggest a 20 percent increase in parks and open space and a repopulation of 80 percent of early 2005 numbers within three years.
I love New Orleans deeply -- to walk down the streets is to see the historic French naming style from the 1700's, tiles embedded in the floor saying "Rue Bourbon," together with 300-year-old markings of Spanish rule, "Calle de Bourbon." The giant oaks bow down, branches meeting in the middle of St. Charles over the streetcar, the only moving historic national monument. Every other local is a talented musician. Even the steamboats on the Mississippi play Dixie music through their pipes. Every piece of New Orleans should be rebuilt. What would need to be saved are the people that comprise the city's essence, those who were too poor to leave, who, ultimately, were the music makers, the storytellers, the cooks.... We need to help them relocate, get jobs involved in the restructuring effort, and give them better financial access to housing markets in higher ground. It is the people who really make the spirit of the city.
New Orleans should be relocated and a natural wildlife habitat should replace it. People have a way of forgetting; thinking such a catastrophic event will not happen to them again, but the sad fact is, hurricanes happen, earthquakes happen, floods happen. Disasters are inevitable and they are increasing, not lessening, in frequency. Err on the side of sensibility and relocate New Orleans. Erect a memorial building dedicated to those who perished during Hurricane Katrina somewhere in the relocated New Orleans. Use the money which would have been spent rebuilding New Orleans on its original site to relocate New Orleans to another safer, more elevated location. But for the sake of people do not rebuild in the same location.
Maybe not the same, but why not New Orleans rebuilt with safer levees and sea walls? New Orleans should be as colorful as ever but with far, far less poverty and a better police force. We need New Orleans. It is our number one port ... the third largest port in the world. How can we do without it?
New Orleans is just the name of a city. The spirit of what we perceive as New Orleans lives in the hearts of the people, in the music, art, history and other things that will never be destroyed by something as insignificant as a hurricane. New Orleans will rise up like a phoenix and shine again. Watch!
Having traveled to New Orleans and been blessed to enjoy the whole ambience of the city, I felt a hole in my heart watching and listening to the reports. New Orleans isn't buildings or levees; it is the history in the residents and business people who keep the spirit alive. I don't know that structurally it can be rebuilt or should be rebuilt the same as before. However, the people will give the flavor back to whatever the restored New Orleans will need.
I do not believe it is the spirit of the city that can be saved, but a reflection of what once was a collection of ethnic and cultural diversities. The people of New Orleans are the only portion of the city we need to save. Pompeii fell, yet the Roman empire lived on.
The French take a lot of heat, yet the French Quarter is the portion of New Orleans that is above water. Americans built below the water line. Any place in the U.S., if there is a flood, the government tells people they won't give federal money to rebuild in a flood plain. Whole towns along the Mississippi have been relocated for this reason, so why rebuild the portion of New Orleans that is below the water level? Relocate that area to some place above water, and build a transit system to carry the residents to the city, the above water portion of the city, and forbid anyone, individual or government to build under water. If you live in a hole, expect to be flooded, or as an old Cajun said, "People forget this (New Orleans) is bayou country."
With the current state of this country's financial condition, rebuilding New Orleans may just be the one that will bankrupt the entire country. Just as the oil companies are getting richer and preying on the American people, money directed to New Orleans would only line the pocket of a politician or another worthy contributor to a political fund or to elect another liar. But as usual, in our free country, we won't have a voice in it at all. The tax payer will have the burden of making the rich richer.
If we say no to rebuilding New Orleans then what happens when we need to rebuild Miami or Jacksonville or Savannah or Charleston or Wilmington? The problem of being below sea level must be addressed but rebuilding New Orleans in another location is not rebuilding, it's relocation.
Living in Chicago, we are always mindful of the calamity of the Great Chicago Fire and the productive re-engineering and planning for the City that followed. The city, its streets, its planned uses were all reconsidered and redesigned, as were its standards for building codes, materials and construction techniques. The debris which resulted from the fire was used to extend the lakefront with landfill, making a buffer for buildings along Lake Michigan and creating a 14-mile stretch of public lakefront parkland which is the envy of mayors everywhere. New Orleans must do the same -- completely rethink what the city can and should be, while not ignoring the forces of nature, or the need to be a model of a vibrant, mixed income and multi-ethnic urban metropolis.
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