Hope prevails amid ruins

By Amara Enyia

Editor’s Note: Amara Enyia is a law student and graduate student. She spent spring break doing legal aid volunteer work in New Orleans. The following is a personal account of her experience.

The sun sets on another day in the lower Ninth Ward, bathing the area in orange light. It will be the last vestige of light until morning, as most of the area is still without electricity. The Ninth Ward was one of the most ravaged areas in Hurricane Katrina’s relentless path, and still, seven months later, it looks as though Katrina’s wrath fell upon the area just days ago. Houses sit on top of cars, cars on top of houses, some homes completely flipped around on their very foundations. A lone wheelchair sits by the side of the road. One wonders if its occupant was able to escape, or fell victim to the apocalyptic floods, wind and rain that took the lives of so many.

There is nothing like witnessing firsthand the devastation caused by the hurricane. The non-stop news accounts can only provide so much. Former signs of life – innocent objects like baby strollers and toys left behind in the rubble – drive home the reality of a ruthless and guiltless storm; a storm with no conscience.

New Orleanians speak of the storm as though it were yesterday. The weary tone with which they describe the devastation shows just how much Katrina battered not only their city, but their hearts. But a current of resilience runs through the post-Katrina commentary, and citizens are quick to espouse the virtues of their great city.

The work to restore the city progresses, albeit slowly. At Martin Luther King Elementary School in the lower Ninth Ward, residents held a rally to reopen the school. They have been granted permission by the school’s board of education, but they have not received permission from the state of Louisiana. These residents, in their zeal to return some normalcy to their lives and their children’s lives, risk arrest to enter the school for clean up. They removed computers, keyboards books, and other school material no longer fit for use. Meanwhile, other citizens have begun monitoring police action to ensure that the beatings and other accounts of police brutality and misconduct cease.

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    New Orleanians are not alone in the struggle to rebuild. Hundreds of college students opted to spend their spring break gutting houses, conducting legal research for citizens facing myriad legal issues and help in any other way they can. They join thousands of volunteers from across the country in an effort to restore the “Big Easy” to its former greatness. Their efforts have been received with gratitude and more of such efforts are necessary to expedite the already long-term process of rebuilding the Crescent City.

    For more information on volunteer opportunities students can contact the Student Hurricane Network at [email protected].