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Friday, September 09, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: Should New Orleans Be Rebuilt?

Just raising this question is sure to inflame passsions. There will be many people who don't understand why others should have to subsidize people living in dangerous areas. There will be others that spew venom at those who would suggest that New Orleans wouldn't be rebuilt.

This got me thinking this morning about the love of place and I realized that I would feel the same about Atlanta. There have been many people critical of New Orleans as a city, pointing out its faults. I can relate to this. Atlanta has tons of faults. It isn't a particularly beautiful city; there are raised power lines and billboards everywhere. It is also one of the more confusing cities to try to get around in. There is no grid pattern for the streets. It is the world capital of suburban sprawl and traffic (though I generally avoid both). I could go on and on about Atlanta's problems.

But Atlanta is home. It is where my memories are. I was talking with Klaus last night about the old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, that by most measures was an atrocity. But I miss it because I have so many childhood memories wrapped up in the place. There is hardly a street in Atlanta that I can drive down without remembering some story or event from my life.

And I suspect most people's memories are wrapped up in a particular place. So this idea of not rebuilding New Orleans toys with the idea of taking away the place of people's memories. And not just those who lived there but also those who have visited New Orleans for honeymoons or Mardis Gras.

The sad conclusion that I came to with Klaus last night is that this will probably become a moot point. Over the next year or so New Orleans will be drained, cleaned up, buildings will be demolished, levees will be rebuilt, and utilities will be restored. The people who have evacuated New Orleans will most likely have decided to get on with their lives in a new place, be it Houston, Atlanta, Jackson, Dallas, or Birmingham. It is unlikely that people will put their lives on hold until a determination is made as to when the rebuilding of New Orleans will even begin. People will find new jobs, will make new friends, enroll their kids in new schools, buy new homes, and create a new life.

Yes, some people will go back to New Orleans. But New Orleans will be smaller and will never be the same again.

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