I attended the Louisiana Recovery & Rebuilding Conference here in New Orleans on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. An amazing collection of highly committed, community-minded people were there. I was invited to represent the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The goal of the conference was twofold: brainstorm and collaborate on a new vision for the new New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana, and, take that message to the streets via the diverse network of conference attendees.
It was an invigorating experience to say the least. So many good hearts all beating in unison in a big room--I couldn't help but be inspired.
There was one unusual moment, one very ironic moment that stands out as I replay the days in my mind.
Saturday morning before the proceedings got under way, I was milling around in the lobby. We did this every day, we got our coffee and just chatted with whoever was standing around with coffee waiting for things to start.
I got into a conversation with a local activist friend and two other locals who work for a preservation organization here. Just friendly chatting and banter. Then one person made this really incredible statement: Since Hurricane Katrina, there have been no murders in the city of New Orleans.
It took about 10 seconds for that to sink in. I just stared straight ahead, absorbing what that means. No murders. Ten weeks. New Orleans.
My friends in the city no doubt understand the power of that statement. New Orleans has habitually been one of the top murder cities in the US. Over the years, per capita, New Orleans has the dubious honor of being the murder captial of America.
But now that is totally over. Now we can boast that we have had zero murders, which puts us on par with Mayberry and Pleasantville. Wow.
At the end of that contemplative moment, I felt the blush of one strong emotion pass through me.
And as soon as I realized what my reaction was, my reaction changed to embarassment. How could I be disappointed that no one had their life taken prematurely?
I don't know. I can only say that it has something to do with calling attention once again to the scale of this disaster.
Aparently, there are just so few of us in New Oleans. So few that nobody got into anyone else's face for more than two months.
We were losing about 300 souls per year of late. Now that problem is gone. Wiped out, along with the stroried neighborhoods and citizens.
Or perhaps my disappointment comes from the knowledge, the statistical factoid, that more than 1,000 Louisiana residents are dead in Katrina's wake, may they rest in peace.
Not a good trade.
More on the LRRC at: http://www.louisianarecoveryandrebuilding.org/