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Lessons of Hurricane Katrina Learned Firsthand: Part Four

This is the final installment in a four-part series about Robbie Endris’ personal experience as the Executive Director of the state’s child support agency in New Orleans during the 2005 arrival and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Click to read Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

In three blog entries, I have shared my Katrina story and the stories of my colleagues and our customers. I tried to keep it short and concise. I could easily have written a book. There is so much more to tell. It seems unbelievable that it has been 10 years since Katrina changed our world. Many of the things that happened are as clear to me as though they happened last week. I don’t think that’s unusual after traumatic events, but it is still amazing to me.

Louisiana has come a long way in the past 10 years. We worked so hard and so fast for the first two or three years that it took a while to return to a normal pace. The frenzied pace of rebuilding is exhausting, but you want to get back to normal so badly that you keep pushing. Louisiana is the kind of place where people value their leisure time. New Orleans did not get the nickname “The Big Easy” for nothing. We are known for family, faith, fun, food, fellowship, and festivals! I guess I should acknowledge one more quality – foolishness. We are stricken with a unique kind of madness that allows us to dress a little crazy, dance to our own music, and then parade it all down the streets. We love to laugh and we love to celebrate. Sadly, we lost the ability to do that for a while.

How did we recover those unique qualities? First of all, we worked it back. We reopened the Superdome within one year, we rebuilt and elevated houses, and we reopened our world-class restaurants and hotels. Our musicians came home, bringing our beloved jazz and street music. Our people made great sacrifices to return home. We were singing the same old song: “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?” Yes, we knew and we wanted our city back.

If I had to point to one event that marked our recovery and return, I would have to say that a few men wearing Black and Gold brought back our belief that we were whole and we could win again. Their victory became our breakthrough. During the playoff days, all of our stores were stocked full of Saints shirts, caps, banners, and anything imaginable in black and gold including beads and King Cake. I walked into a neighborhood grocery store in Baton Rouge and just stopped for a minute. A huge display of Saints “everything” was front and center and “Saints Go All the Way” was blaring over the audio system. When the rap interlude comes, the shoppers joined in the chant, “Who Dat? Who Dat? Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints!” I was shouting as loudly as anyone. Another lady was standing there, and I said, “Isn’t this great?” She said, “Yes, it is and I don’t want it to ever end.”

I knew then that we were back. The joie de vivre had returned to Louisiana, and we had truly come home again. Jep Epstein wrote the theme song of our recovery and the chorus says this, “This is our love; this is our life; this is our home, Louisiana. This is our day, come what may. This is our home.” There is truly no place like home.

And oh yes – the Saints did win that Lombardi trophy, and then we did have a big parade! WHO DAT!