New Orleans: Too soon to celebrate Mardi Gras?
No: 'We are still here, and life must go on'
CNN.com asked two New Orleans residents affected by Hurricane Katrina to share their views on if New Orleans was holding Mardi Gras too soon after the storm.
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(CNN) -- Cafe Du Monde, a New Orleans landmark, has been around since 1862, and Jay Roman and his family have owned it since 1942. The restaurant, which is usually open 24 hours a day, save for a day and a half at Christmas, shut down following Hurricane Katrina. It only recently returned to normal hours. Roman explains why he believes Mardi Gras is important to New Orleans this year. Below are excerpts from e-mail and telephone conversations:
It is right and proper to hold Mardi Gras because so many businesses are counting on Mardi Gras to be the spark that restarts our economic engine. Mardi Gras is important to more than just the business owners. You have to remember that my family represents only one of the 120 families that work at Cafe Du Monde. These other families are using their paychecks to pay for their own housing needs, their groceries and the like, and Mardi Gras is an important part of that.
Mardi Gras has always been very important to us. The [weekend before Mardi Gras] has always been the busiest long weekend of the year.
I sympathize with those people who lost everything in the storm not wanting to celebrate Mardi Gras. I lost a house that we had just finished renovating. I was lucky because it was not my primary residence. My wife's family lost a total of four homes.
As an ordinary citizen, the best way I know to help those who are still trying to get back to New Orleans is by making sure that when they get here, our economy is growing.
People describe Carnival as the greatest free party in the world, but Mardi Gras is much more than a party. As someone who has worked during Mardi Gras for the last 25 years, I view Mardi Gras as a working holiday. Think of how many individuals in the city make their living by working during Mardi Gras.
For example, we sell coffee and beignets. In order to serve those products, we have to purchase flour, milk, sugar, etc. We do that from other local businesses. Those businesses in turn have to bring in sugar from the mills and raw milk from the farmers. And we are only one small part of Carnival. Think of the float builders, bead sellers, hotels, restaurants, parking lots, etc. All of those businesses support other businesses who, in turn, support other businesses.
I think that by holding Mardi Gras we are showing the rest of the world that New Orleans is not dead. We may have been battered and bruised, but we are still here, and life must go on.
One of our traditions in New Orleans is to honor the passing of a local musician with a jazz funeral. On the way to the cemetery, a jazz band will lead the hearse playing very somber tones. After the burial, the same jazz band will lead the mourners away from the cemetery playing festive jazz songs to celebrate the fact that life goes on.
In a way it has felt like the beginning of a jazz funeral around the city since the storm.
I hope that the celebration of Mardi Gras at the six-month anniversary of Katrina can symbolize the fact that it is OK to put aside your grief and celebrate the fact there is a better life ahead for New Orleans.
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