Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Lights back on in New Orleans. . .
For the first time in almost two years the lights burned brightly last Monday night at the New Orleans Superdome. U2 and Green Day showed up with thousands of fans and citizens of the troubled city.
About a year ago we were all thinking hard and arguing passionately about the city of New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.
At last football fans, in person and via ESPN's Monday Night Football, converged on the city and the Superdome for the game between the over achieving New Orleans Saints and the solid Atlanta Falcons.
The Saints prevailed in the game 23 to 3. I loved the outcome!
When we lived in New Orleans, I joined the ranks of die-hard Saints fans, even when we referred to them as the "Ain'ts." We were there five years--great years.
Hank Stram coached the team. I remember very well leading the team in chapel services prior to a game with the Philadelphia Eagles. As I recall, my prayers didn't help much that day. But, I can tell you it was thrilling to me, a young, 25-year-old minister just to be in the house with the team! I have a Saints helmet hanging in my office today, even here in Cowboy country.
During the off season, we would run into the Archie Manning family--including Peyton and Eli when they were just little fellows--at a local cafeteria on Sundays after church.
Er, sorry. . .back to Monday night.
Throughout the game it was clear that the fans carried the team with their unrelenting heart and soul. The Falcons should have won the game, but the fans simply would not allow it. It was amazing to watch and listen.
The renewal of the sports arena has given the people of New Orleans hope and a common rallying point. Every seat in the building has been sold out for the entire 2006 Saints home schedule. Eat your heart out, Jerry Jones!
Clearly, the Saints are back!
I wish I could say the same about the city.
More than a year after the Katrina tragedy the city has no comprehensive plan for rebuilding the thousands of homes lost in the storm. Those of us who have walked the neighborhoods can't get the images of complete devastation out of our minds or our dreams.
The Superdome has been restored, thanks to an investment of over $185 million dollars.
Monday night we all watched with gratitude.
Way to go New Orleans!
What has happened to the Superdome sports arena needs to spread out across the rest of the city and the entire region.
But, it cannot happen, it will not happen without a national commitment to rebuild the city of New Orleans.
Where is the leadership?
Where is a reprise of a Marshall Plan-like approach to renewing this important, but devastated American city?
As I see it, we must keep asking and asking until we receive a satisfactory answer.
As Spike Lee said at halftime Monday evening, "it ain't right yet."
Three or four hours at a wonderful community event and then back to the FEMA trailer just doesn't sound like the best we can do. What do you think?
Surely we have not come to the place in our national civic life where we simply allow a great city to disappear, have we?
Every major urban area in America should be watching and listening for an answer, a national answer.