Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reflecting on Our Trip

I have always looked forward to Exploration week because I knew I would go on a trip that included flying somewhere. It first started with the Civil Rights Journey/Rock and Roll trip. Then I was a junior and I knew I wanted to go to New Orleans to help rebuild. The first flight of the New Orleans trip was to Chicago. I couldn’t wait for the second flight to New Orleans (it was longer). After my week of hard work, I was dreading the flight home. For me, that was an odd feeling because I did not want to leave. Now it is senior year and once again I was accepted to New Orleans. This year was different. I couldn’t wait for the trip, not because of the flying, but because I wanted to help as soon as I possibly could. As I sit here on Tuesday, having one more day of working left, once again I am dreading the flight home. This time, being here is more special than last year was. I was more willing to do anything that the organizations needed me to do.
We arrived in New Orleans Thursday evening. Wake up the next morning was at 6:15 and I can tell you now that everyone cringed as Mr. Neudel said that. The group was going to start to work for the Lowerninth.org project. The Lower Ninth Ward was one of the worst places hit by Katrina. To shorten the intro to the meaningful story I have is, we worked for a half day on Friday, then had Shabbos at my former Ramah Assistant Director’s Temple. Chatted it up there then came back to hostile. On Sunday, Yael, Molly, and I were assigned to paint part of a house. As we were painting, a little boy about five year’s old, name Dwayne was riding a bike. Before he came, I took off my hat so it would be easier for me to paint. As Dwayne comes along, he notices my hat. I turn my back for a second and I notice that it wasn’t where I put it down, that’s because Dwayne had taken it (he liked the colors). I asked him if he had a hat like that, his response to it was, “I don’t have a hat.” If you know me, you know that I love hats, more than anyone. Hearing that just broke me down inside. A little boy like him deserves a hat. After a moment of thinking, I decided to ask Dwayne if he wanted my hat. He couldn’t believe it! I gave him the hat and watched him ride off to the birthday party he was going to. A boy like Dwayne doesn’t even have his own hat, something that most little boys have. He needed that hat. As the end of the trip is here and as my life goes on, I know that Dwayne will always have that hat, and I will remember him for the rest of my life. I promised myself that I would come down to New Orleans again, but with some gifts to give out: some hats and also some bikes. Dwayne was riding a bike that was not his. Dwayne will be my motivation to do all that I can to help the city of New Orleans.

-Mike H.

Before I came down to New Orleans I don’t think I fully realized the extent of the damage Hurricane Katrina caused here. Sure, you see the pictures, but until you really put the faces to the place, it doesn’t seem real. You see the water above people’s roofs, but you think “oh, it will go down and everything will go back to normal.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. It is five years later, and you still drive past plots upon plots of empty land, on some of which you can still see the concrete slabs where houses, and more importantly people, used to reside. We have been working for the past couple of days on cleaning out a convent in order to turn it into a community center, and while doing so we have been doing everything from bagging clothes and books to ripping up tile to using sledge hammers to knock down walls. On the first morning, Monday, I was working in the dumpster with a couple of other kids trying to pack everything in as tightly as possible. While we were doing this, we came across bags of old clothes and files with students’ names on them. It really set in on me then that these were people’s lives we were throwing away. Imagine not having your favorite childhood blanket or stuffed animal or even something as simple as a book that you used to read all the time. We might just look at it as just another step in the demolition process, but the people who had used this building we were working on before the storm viewed it as a place they could feel safe; a place to call a home away from home. We were throwing away people’s lives. Now the building is way emptier than it was when we got there Monday morning, which I guess is a good thing because it means we are one day closer to rebuilding and giving the people of this neighborhood a place to create new memories, but it is also one more step away from the lives they used to have here. This is a city which is still much in need of our help, not somewhere to be forgotten because it is not the most recent disaster. Every time someone drives by and either waves or honks you can see that they really appreciate that people are here to help, but it’s not even about that. I didn’t come down here to be thanked; I came to try to help those who aren’t necessarily as fortunate as myself and to let them know that people still care.

-Hillary D.

No comments:

Post a Comment