The Battle of New Orleans


The first thing you notice is the widespread devastation. You arrive in New Orleans and you are immediately aware of the things'like signs, trailers, fences, trees'that are still askew and out of place. And you remind yourself that it has been eight months since a deadly hurricane called Katrina roared through this region.
Then you sense the triumph of the human spirit that is prevailing here. The PGA TOUR is staging a golf tournament at English Turn here this week. And it is a kind of sporting coming out party for the people who still live here.
Katrina was responsible for the deaths of more than 1,300 people. More than half of New Orleans population of 450,000 has not yet returned from evacuation. The damage estimates from the hurricane have run into the tens of billions of dollars.
On Wednesday, a man who was born and raised here took his two sons to the golf course to watch the best players in the world practice. While the boys chased down autographs, the father struck up a conversation.
He told me that he owned three businesses and lost all of them in the wake of Katrina. But more important, he said, was the fact that he was able to save his 80-year-old mother from the storm.
It will be years, he said, before New Orleans recovers from Katrina.
Others say it will never completely return to its former glories. But many of the citys famous restaurants have reopened their doors. The service and the amenities at the downtown hotels are amazingly efficient and available.
The people who live and work here are, for the most part, bright and friendly when they would be excused for looking tired and full of despair.
The human spirit is a strong force. The Zurich Classic, for its part, is a chance for the people to escape, even if just for an afternoon, the burdens and grim realities of recovery. It is also a civic exercise, an opportunity for this part of the world to show the rest of us their collective determination.
Finally, its a chance for the rest of us to appreciate what we have wherever it is that we live. The next time any of us feel the need to complain, we will do well to think, for a moment, about what happened here.
We will do even better if we think, for a moment, about how strong the will is of the local people who have decided to try and piece this place back together.
Email your thoughts to Brian Hewitt