I didn’t really know what to expect when arriving in New Orleans as it was my first time. I knew I was chosen to join a Berklee assembled team in helping a family start a new life. It was so much more. The area appeared to be in a revitalized stage, the French Quarter was buzzing with tourists looking to taste the world famous local cuisine and locals eager to provide the unique southern hospitality. The food was awesome, bursting with flavor, originality and that distinct “umph” that so many people have tried to describe but couldn’t. We all enjoyed a great 1st evening at the Red Fish grill and filled our palette with the great Louisiana cuisine. We retire early for our 1st day on the job, our mission.
Day 1 at the work site and we are literally starting from the ground up. I honestly didn’t know what to expect but I guess I figured there would be more done, maybe some touch-ups, painting, gardening. This was going to be something I’ve never had to do before but needed to step up. Just a few cinder blocks on the foundation and lots of wood waiting to be put together. Seems like a daunting task but one I’m ready to take on. We quickly are assigned to numerous jobs along with other volunteers from around the map. And we get going. The sun is bearing down on us yet the team continues to going with a sense of purpose. At the end of day, we are almost done with the 1st floor. As I’m packing up tools into the container, Nicole, the recipient of the house stops by to see how its looking. She’s looks like she’s had a long day but all smiles as she now sees the progress on her house. She conveys how happy and appreciative of our help to rebuild and stabilize her and her kids’ lives. I’m psyched!!
Day 2 spirits are even as we still have a lot to do in such a limited time. I’m feeling a bit burnt, literally from the sun but still going. Hammering down the 1st floor, hollering measurements and cutting 18ft lumber pieces as yelled out. I’ve cut lumber before but not to this extent. Starting to get anxious and just thinking don’t mess up Nicole’s house. LOL. The first wall is up and I’m looking at it like, yeah this is about to get really really fun. I’ve always passed construction sites or seen it at certain stages but to watch it with my eyes. Unbelievable. A few neighbors are looking on and a few smiles are around. They might be impressed or just anticipating what could be.
Day 3 Everything is forming well and we’re really rolling now, 1st floor walls are up and the windows are being cut out. I’m trying to be a part of everything I can, or anything asked of me. Doesn’t matter. Everybody is enthused with the great progress. Yeah the sun is kicking our butt and we’re chugging down water like it was going out of style along with snowballs but we’re keeping the focus. Not sure if time just flew or I was just so engrossed in the first floor windows and walls but the next thing the 2nd floor has a wall up. 2nd story already…BAM!! Now that’s progress!!
Day 4 all walls are up on the 2nd story and Doug collaborating with Clint on the stairs. I don’t know what it was about this project, actually I do. I had never seen stays made but the work put into it was phenomenal. Somehow it certified the 2nd floor and definitely energized me especially considering my hands were aching from all the hammering, some on my thumbs and the nice blood blister I developed the day before. That’s not going to keep down. Got to get this done!
Day 5 and I’m realizing that we have come so far in so little time. From just a few concrete blocks to now a 2 story house in the making. The smiles, sweat, sawdust and sunburns can’t explain the joy I’m feeling in seeing this all in front of my eyes. Nicole is back and she really was speechless. Not sure if she couldn’t believe the progress or just was lost for words. Sometimes words aren’t necessary. I’d feel the same way if I were her.
You know, I was asked how was the trip or how was New Orleans. And I’m a person of few words and in this case I am because my description would not do New Orleans justice. I’m left believing that New Orleans could be the best city in the U.S. It may be easy to say for the obvious reasons, the food, the entertainment, weather. But there is a distinctly unique vibe about the city. It breathes. Its gravitational pull draws you toward its center and looks to latch onto you. I see so much potential in the city even with such a short stay. I’ve done my part in trying to revitalize and take the city beyond what it was but Rome wasn’t built in a day. And it may take several more years to build New Orleans into what it was, but my sentiment is that we should not forget or give up in building the city. It’s going to take all of our efforts to make New Orleans that place we love to visit but also for those who live there. The various wards still need work, need attention. Let’s not forget the jazz capital of the world.
Much love New Orleans, I’ll be back.