What if you lived in a city filled with crime, corruption, and crushing poverty? What if you had a magic wand that would not only remove the crime and poverty from your city, but leave the city in such a condition that the undesirable elements of your population could never return? Would you wave that wand?
What if the magic wand also made the rest of the world feel sorry for you and send you millions of dollars in donations-and millions more in supplies and free labor?
What if you were one of those poor people who got to live in better homes and have people take care of you and feel sorry for you because of your great misfortune?
On the other hand, what if you are one of the dozens of cities that has seen their crime rate grow from the mass exodus of bad elements? Maybe you wouldn’t like it so much.
The Magic Wand was Hurricane Katrina and five years later New Orleans is a safer and better city than it was before the disaster. I was in Houston the week after Katrina struck , in a motel filled with people who had fled the city of New Orleans. I watched the ongoing drama on CNN and though about my own trips to the Big Easy.
I’ve been all over America and I have been in some pretty rough neighborhoods. But New Orleans was the only city I ever visited where I really wanted to be back in my hotel room before it got dark. And I was staying in the French Quarter.
I heard an NPR report a few months after Katrina that talked about how the New Orleans police didn’t have many murders to investigate due to the drop in crime. At the time of the story, only 12 murders instead of the normal dozens or hundreds. New Orleans seems to have recovered in this area as well, with the city on a pace to have over 200 murders in 2010.
I like the touristy areas of New Orleans. I remember going on the Grey Line Tour of the city. At one of the bus’s frequent stops, the tour guide pointed to a Levee and said-“If New Orleans is ever hit by a Category Five hurricane, the entire city will flood when this levee breaks. Ha Ha Ha.”
Even on a normal day the water was clearly visible just the other side of the levee. We all looked around and saw that we were in a giant bowl. I couldn’t help thinking of that humorous Tour Guide when that levee broke. I guess everyone in New Orleans thought it was a joke. I wonder what the Tour Guides say now?
I grew up in Poly, one of Fort Worth’s many fine ghettos, and if I could have waved a wand and made it disappear, I would have. Instead I did what everyone lving in a ghetto does, I got out as soon as I could and never looked back.