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Thousands extend their helping hands

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By Christina Dey

Hurricane Katrina sowed a lot of destruction but from the wreckage grew compassion and civic action.

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 In 2005 this storm did not do what the weathermen and everyone else thought it was going to do. Instead of following the projected path, it headed straight into New Orleans.

Levies were broken, wind moved objects that one would think wouldn’t move and a city was flooded. In a city known for having its own soul, it seemed like everything was lost.

Within a year after the storm had left its mark, New Orleans had been forgotten by most of the media and the recovery process had begun. Two years ago, a small group of youth from Los Alamos journeyed to New Orleans to participate in relief work. It was a trip that changed the group’s lives in many some way.

Two years after the storm the city, in some places looked as though the storm had only left just a few months ago. Many of the homes were still abandoned, untouched since their owners fled. Yet, despite the visible destruction, the city’s soul was still there and life had begun to return to normal, or at least as normal as life would ever be again.

Then just a few weeks ago the story of New Orleans returned to the front of many people’s minds. The National Youth Gathering for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America came to New Orleans. The Youth Gathering is held in a different city every three years. This year, 36,000 young people and adults attended the gathering, making it the largest convention held in the city since the storm. While the gathering only lasted four days, the amount of service work done over the three days was equal to three or four years of work.

Work done throughout the city included cleaning parks, painting murals in schools and arranging a health fair in City Park, which the group from Los Alamos participated in. Beyond the work being done out in the city, there was a blood drive and people could get haircuts for Locks of Love.

The city opened its arms wide welcoming this youth group. A city that may have begun to feel like it was forgotten by the rest of the country had swelled with enough hope and gratitude to stop a hurricane in its tracks.

A waiter at a restaurant told us about how the only thing that could be saved from the home of a family member after the storm was a statue of Mary. A man at the French market, who made jewelry, told us how grateful  he was that all of these Lutherans had come down to help out.

During the last mass gathering in the Superdome, the mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, was there and he told everyone how grateful he and the rest of the city was that we had been there. After that the presiding Bishop Mark Hanson read a letter that had been written to the gathering participants from President Obama.

New Orleans is a city unlike any other, with a soul and spirit that had proven to everyone that it can endure anything.