Monday, February 27, 2006
The 'pull' of Mardi Gras
On my flight to New Orleans, I sat next to a woman who lost her home because of Hurricane Katrina, relocated to Atlanta, but was feeling like she must return to New Orleans. The reason is the "pull" of Mardi Gras.

What we've found this week as we walk the streets of the Big Easy is that many evacuees find they can't let Mardi Grass happen without being back for it.

It's hard to understand for a lot of us from other places, but celebrating Mardi Gras is part of the soul of so many people who live here...and who lived here.

So they are coming back in throngs. We spent some time with Ashley Cantrelle, a student at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Katrina destroyed her house, her family is split up and her only home is a dorm room. But we watched her celebrate at a parade and as she caught beads on Bourbon Street.

It reinvigorated her spirit even as she boarded the bus back to her dorm in Baton Rouge, where she still has to worry about where she will live when the school year ends.
Posted By Gary Tuchman, CNN Correspondent: 12:42 PM ET
I'm so glad people are going back to celebrate, and have something happy, familar and normal come back into their lives. I hope everyone has a great time.
Posted By Anonymous Molly, Coleville, CA : 1:52 PM ET
Your "pull" description about Carnival is apt--not physical, but emotional, from the heart.

It's a state of being, a state of mind...this time of year.
Posted By Anonymous Glenn Booker, Albany, GA (New Orleans native) : 2:02 PM ET
I think it is great that the city of New Orleans has continued the tradition of Mardi Gras. Sure, because of the crisis and devestation Hurricane Katrina left behind, it sort of seems wrong to have the urge to party and celebrate, but if this is what it takes to get things back to normal in the Big Easy, then I say "Party On!" Sometimes in life, you have to take two steps back before taking a giant leap foward.
Posted By Anonymous Ann M., Lehigh Acres, FL : 2:24 PM ET
Although I am not a native of New Orleans, I completely understand the pull. Since 1995, I have been to Mardi Gras four times. My last visit was 2005. In the years that I have not been able to go, I have experienced what I call, "Mardi Gras withdrawals."

I decided a few weeks ago, at the very last minute, that I would try to make it there again this year to show my support for a city and people that I love. Unfortunately, I was unable to find a hotel room, otherwise, I would be in New Orleans.
Posted By Anonymous Margaret Harbaugh, : 2:49 PM ET
I am really happy with the coverage this year of Mardi Gras. We are finally seeing the Media report on the "True" Mardi Gras that we New Orleanians know. It's not Bourbon Street, it'not the wild flashing. It's the people who line the parades, children, families. It may have taken Katrina to expose this side of Mardi Gras, but it's the way we have always enjoyed this Celebration. So next year I hope when the city is closer to beeing itself again, folks will come and enjoy the "Family" side of this great celebration
Posted By Anonymous William, New Orleans, LA : 3:00 PM ET
I suppose only the people who are in the devastations and celebrations can understand the emotions there. My city is in ruins and I am depressed, so I throw a party to lift up my spirit. When the party is over, my city is still in ruins and I am still depressed. Would I rather put the energy and money in the efforts to rebuilding my city? But then, maybe life isn't so simple.
Posted By Anonymous Grace, Santa Maria, CA : 3:09 PM ET
i took my family there after christmas to see how 'heart' matters so much in life. i needed to see if the television reports were bloated. in fact, they were overly tame. we were among the first tourists patrolling the french quarter looking for
life and what we found was latent.

you cannot party on if you cannot build your city back and although tourism matters so much - what mardi gras underscores above all else - is the latent wildness and superstition and spiritual never say die'ism that is the real thing to be celebrated this week. kudos to every man who battles on.
Posted By Anonymous sandy brooklyn - ny : 3:22 PM ET
As someone born & raised in N.O. but now living in Houston I understand completly what you mean. For all the good, bad & ugly that N.O. is known for (bad schools, corruption in the local/state government, crime rate, etc..) it was a great city to grow up in. Having served in the La National Guard the last 18 years I was there the day after the storm hit going back & forth from the Super Dome, Convention Center, New Orleans Intl Airport & saw alot of things I would never have wished upon anyone to endure, much less my home town, friends & neighbors. I make trips every couple of weeks back to the city to help relatives getting their homes back in order & it's great to see things slowly coming back. For anyone questioning if holding Mardi Gras was a good idea, don't. Forget the monetary benefits of the taxes, forget the tourism help, just knowing the "party goes on" & that our city will be back is what helps keep us going. Watching last night & seeing people back on the streets was enought to help erase some of the images I saw the first week of Sept.

Let the good times roll........
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Houston TX : 3:25 PM ET
My husband and I met at Mardi Gras in 1973 on the corner of Bourbon and Canal. Six months later we were married at the Saint Louis Cathedral. The Pull of Mardi Gras is visceral and intense. This year it is suffused with a melancholy that is indescribable...
Posted By Anonymous Katie Noonan Sandpoint, Idaho : 3:45 PM ET
Mardi Gras in New Orleans is different this year. Waiting for parades to start and between float delays, strangers converse - black and white, old and young, costumed and not. It isn't idol conversation. It's sharing the loss, the grief, and the nightmare of Katrina: "Where are you from?" "Did you get out in time?" "Who have you lost?". It's heartwarming to see the people of south Louisiana reach out to each other with such compassion and sympathy.

I was temporarily transformed by the magic to a place and time that was happy and worry free. Reality returned to me this morning as I walked out of the New Orleans Hilton. There was a couple sitting with their mountain of luggage waiting for the valet to bring their car. I lightly made the comment: "You look like homeless people". They laughed, but as I turned and walked away, the woman said softly "We are."
Posted By Anonymous Patti - Dutchtown, LA : 3:57 PM ET
When I was in college, my family was broken up, too...only in my case, it was by a divorce. My family home was also "lost" in that process. Both my parents moved on with their lives and often, I would worry where I would live after college since I couldn't stay in that dorm room after graduation.

Well, thank God for education, b/c I found myself a job and a couple of friends to split the rent with. I worked two jobs for a long time, but soon, I was living on my own and loving it. My point is, I have a hard time feeling that sorry for Ms. Cantrelle, b/c plenty of people experience hardships in life...but not all of them have the gift of a great education. At least in her case, Ms. Cantrelle is at an enormous advantage from alot of other people hurt by Katrina - or other unfortunate life circumstances.
Posted By Anonymous Claudine, Saint James, NY : 4:03 PM ET
I think that celebrating this year's Mardi Gras is vital to the moral of the people of New Orleans. I am so glad that they are able to hold the celebration, despite all the lingering problems in the aftermath of Katrina! The Mardi Gras beginning as the Olympics closes, shows the world that not only althlets can have a disasterous fall or first round, recover, and go one to win medals, but that New Orleans can also recover after the disaster of Katrina. Bravo New Olreans!
Posted By Anonymous Ann - Newton, IA : 4:04 PM ET
This is a great article. I've been able to celebrate Mardi Gras every year of my life until this year (because of school), and I didn't realize how much I'd miss it until the time came around. Just like the article says, for people from the New Orleans area, "celebrating Mardi Gras is part of the soul."
Posted By Anonymous Sunny Shah Atlanta, GA (New Orleans native) : 4:12 PM ET
What else would they do but party. They don't work. Life's a party! Give me, give me, give me. Cuz you know you owe me.
Posted By Anonymous Ronald Denver, CO : 4:27 PM ET
Thanks for showing the true spirit of Mardi Gras. This is the first time I have been away from home in about 15 years. I have ridden and marched in various parades. I am glad that Mardi Gras is going on, it's just hard to watch it on a little screen instead of right there in the front row. For me tomorrow will just be Tuesday here in North Carolina, but my heart and soul knows that it is that magical day I look foward to every year. Next year, I'll be back home!!
Posted By Anonymous Ashley Haspel, Salisbury, North Carolina (a displaced New Orleanean) : 5:39 PM ET
New Orleans was a birthing place. It was a place were so many different elements boiled under the Louisiana heat. What arose was not always pretty but always genuine and native. I think that Mardi Gras is a compelling call for natives to come home, just Like salmon returning to the river where they were born.
Posted By Anonymous Elric - Denver, Co : 6:03 PM ET
Gary, I think you had a typo in your wrote "so they are coming back in throngs". From what I can see, actually, it is *thongs*.
Posted By Anonymous Rich, Phoenixville, PA : 6:12 PM ET
Reminds me of a story about my 8 year old daughter. We were walking together in a mall and she said "Look there's my friend Kristin's father". I looked and saw two men standing in the direction she had pointed ... a black man and a white man. I asked her .. "Which man?" thinking she would identify Kristin's father by the color of his skin. She replied .... "The one in the red shirt." At that instant I wished I could see the world through her eyes !!!
Posted By Anonymous Jason, San Diego, CA : 6:36 PM ET
I would like to tell Ronald from Denver - you don't understand Mardi Gras and you never will. Please don;t come visit us. We don;t need your negative attitude. Mardi Gras is a way for us in New Orleans to release the emotions that follow us everywhere. It is a depressing sight to see so much of our home GONE! Live with that loss for 1 day let alone 6 months and then tell me whether you just want to forget fo a moment the devastation waiting for you. When you go to the grocery at 10PM remember NO where everything closes by 9. Walk in our shoes before you criticize
Posted By Anonymous Ann , New Orleans, LA : 6:48 PM ET
Its a shame in this grand country of ours that we are more concerned with partying and showing off our boobs when there are so many people without homes.....couldn't we use that money towards building new homes????
Posted By Anonymous Linda Johnson, Houston, Texas : 7:04 PM ET
I positively believe that it was right for Mardi Gras to go forward. Maybe those who are pulled to Mardi Gras to celebrate and reunite, will stay to rebuild.

There's no better time to see what's been lost so starkly juxtaposed against what remains capable of being recovered.
Posted By Anonymous Michele Jackson, Porter Ranch, CA : 7:18 PM ET
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