We are scheduled to leave in an hour and a half, and for the first time this week I feel somewhat capable of trying to put into words what this trip has meant for me. I have been to New Orleans many times, but never after Katrina until now; I was not expecting what we found upon arriving. On Monday, driving through neigborhoods that were devastated during both the hurricane and the flooding, I was shocked and outraged to see a city in our country, over two and a half years after the storm, in such poor conditions. Many commented on how it looked like the storm could have hit just one month ago. The shock of seeing such poor conditions here has made working, being just a tiny part of the relief effort, so much more valuable. I wish I could have done more, and I wish I had come much sooner.
The week has been full of hard sights. We drove past hundreds of people living in tents underneath a bridge, people who had homes before Katrina and now have nothing. We met people who were directly affected by Katrina, heard their stories, saw their pictures...Everyday we passed house after house with a cross on each door, telling the number of bodies found within the homes, still there as constant reminders of what was lost to the disaster. So many times I have wondered how this could have happened to our country, but more importantly, how have we continued to let this happen.
I could try to continue, to convey how many times I looked at the house that I helped build and was filled with a sense of pride and devotion to this cause, or try to convey the number of times that I have cried on behalf of those that were so hurt and lost from all of this, or try to convey how much I want to graduate in May and turn right around and come back, but my own, personal experience is not what was important about this trip. I hope all of the students who came were affected by what they saw, and inspired to do more good in the future. I hope that the families who will move into the houses we built will love their new homes, and I hope that many other, less fortunate ones will also be able to move into houses of their own. I hope, more than anything else, that I can inspire others who did not come on this trip to come, at some point, to see the state of one of our own cities, and step up to help. Several people were suprised to hear that I was going on this trip, and asked "Why are you giving up your spring break to do hard, strenous work instead of relaxing somewhere and having fun?" To this, I reply that in no way have I "given up" my break; I went somewhere that needed help, learned how to build a house, met many new people, cried a lot, laughed a lot, and return to Asheville with many wonderful memories of my last spring break ever in college. I am proud of myself, and I am proud of those who have contributed to helping those who have suffered so much.