Have Dental Floss, Will Travel

Mapping the world, one waxy strand at a time…

New Orleans – A Tale of Four Shoes, Part Four: My New Orleans

My apologies – this is not a story about shoes.  I’m sure I could relate my camel-colored boots to tivek suits and Lebanese food, but it would be a stretch.  Instead, this is a story about the time I fell in love with the city of New Orleans.


It was July of 2006 when I set foot on Louisiana soil for the first time.  As I walked through the empty terminals of New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport, surrounded by two dozen of my favorite people in the world, I was struck with a profound sense of awe.

I was traveling to the Big Easy ten months after Hurricane Katrina had ravaged the area, one of the thousands of volunteers who flocked to the city.

The trip was organized by the Interfaith Community Building Group, a Philadelphia-based organization that formed in 1997 following a series of racially motivated arsons in the Alabama and Mississippi.  Members of my synagogue had joined together with Protestant and Catholic groups in the city, wanting to issue a response to the hatred that motivated these church burnings.  They decided that the best action they could take would be to join in solidarity with members of the Rocky Point Baptist Church in McComb, Mississippi, working to repair the damaged space.

My father was one of the founding members of the ICBG.  My sister and I became involved a short time later, and over the past fourteen years, the group has become like a family.  We’ve worked on annual construction projects with communities throughout El Salvador and Philadelphia, and that summer of 2006, we went to New Orleans to bear witness to the natural- and man-made devastation that had rocked the city.

And bear witness we did.  We spent a week working with members of the Saint Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in the city’s Gentilly neighborhood, gutting homes, removing debris, laying sheetrock, and painting walls.

This became my New Orleans.

My New Orleans was a New Orleans of tivek suits and mold-ridden houses.  It was a New Orleans of broken toys and empty hat boxes, of high water lines and abandoned stovetop pots, of broken homes adorned with FIMA statistics noting dates and times and number of bodies recovered.

But my New Orleans was also a New Orleans of laughter and singing.  It was a New Orleans of soul food lunches and Lebanese dinners, of hammers and drywall, of stocked grocery stores and bustling Home Depots.  It was a New Orleans of muscle, of growth, of resilience.

I fell in love with New Orleans on that trip, for its brokenness and for its strength.  And when Brent and I returned this past week, I set out to revisit that New Orleans, both to recapture it and to redefine it.

**I had more pictures for this post, including some that Brent took when we returned to Gentilly last week.  But we’re spending the next few days at Brent’s parents’ house in New England, and I’m contending with a precarious internet connection here.  So, those pictures will have to wait for another day.**


4 responses to “New Orleans – A Tale of Four Shoes, Part Four: My New Orleans

  1. Kari w/ Jogging with Fiction December 29, 2010 at 8:27 am

    That’s pretty amazing what you did. I can’t wait to see more pictures.

  2. Mallory December 29, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Aww I thought it was about shoes!! 🙂 That’s so cool to get involved that way!

  3. denise December 29, 2010 at 11:07 am

    what a great organization!! i would love to get involved in something like that!

  4. Julie (A Case of the Runs) December 29, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    Sounds like a fun adventure. I loved the zoo pics in the previous post!

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