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On the 5th Anniversary of Katrina

Photo by Alistair James

Six months ago yesterday, I got married in New Orleans. In all this weekend’s news regarding the fifth anniversary of Katrina, I had to take a moment today to consider this miracle on a personal level, and all the ones that led to being able to have a wedding in New Orleans.

When I think back on all that haunting devastation in 2005, I recall seeking out all the pictures I could (still do) & the many at my disposal. I took comfort in Chris Rose’s columns, at a time when it all was hanging — when whether the city would be renewed was a real question. I reread Rose’s An Open Letter to America daily in the first month on the Times Picayune site, and then every few months. The room still seems awfully dusty right around the part where he describes loving “South Louisiana with a ferocity that borders on the pathological.”

It just so happened I filed for divorce that horrible month. Later, I’d reflect back on where I was in my life when my state fell apart. So much I loved seemed destroyed. Would I get it back?

This year, in the days leading up to my February wedding, I had moving conversations with locals I’d never met before, when they learned why I was there — and look at this crowd I brought with me all the way from basically Alaska. On our third visit in three days, the reserved bartender at French 75 pulled me aside, looked me straight in the eye, and told me he was glad I was there and brought my friends, how he made it through all that passed to see this year’s post-Superbowl Mardi Gras. “I wish you could have witnessed that party. We got it back, girl.”

The evening before my wedding, friends joined us in the Sazerac Bar at the Hotel Roosevelt on a bustling Saturday night. Many had arrived in New Orleans for the first time, and we chose it for convenience, history, and its ability to accommodate 50 close friends at a moment’s notice. We were staying at the hotel, our first chance since it reopened after 4 years of post-Katrina renovations.

At one point, Rocky pointed out Chef John Besh over there, standing at the bar. Now, since I was getting married at Besh’s restaurant — plus sazeracs were involved — I didn’t pause before grabbing my future husband to meet this legend across the room.

What happened next was a wonderful gift: we talked for a few minutes, about how my fiance and I were marrying in twenty-four hours at his August, about friends we knew in common, and about how I felt I couldn’t get married without making — I mean having — all of my Seattle friends come visit New Orleans. This beloved city that miraculously found its way back. He was unbelievably gracious, and introduced us to his friends, who’d been his superiors in Desert Storm, and then told me we made his night. Did I know he had not been at Sazerac since Katrina? Isn’t it great to be here? Isn’t it a blessing we are here? We laughed about our meeting being fate, and went onto our evenings.

Yes. It was great to be back. And it was the best weekend of my life.

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