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Friday, September 2, 2005 - Page updated at 03:51 PM

Feeling the loss of a unique city

Knight Ridder Newspapers

If you've been to New Orleans, you are mourning.

If you haven't been to New Orleans, you are mourning because you missed it — for now and possibly forever. Some experts are questioning the advisability of rebuilding, given the city's precarious location on wetlands. Even if it is rebuilt, structural damage is so extensive that it's going to take a long time.

The whole aftermath of Hurricane Katrina is overwhelmingly difficult to imagine, and we agonize for everyone involved. It is a nightmare, and shocking to us that in this information age, we can't even communicate.

I did hear last Sunday that my friend, Barbara Arras, who lives there, had moved north and was safe, but that was the last we were able to get through on her cell phone. I do not know whether a colleague at New Orleans' Times Picayune is OK — she has not yet been heard from.

Our concerns for the people are greatest at this point.

But as travelers, we have our own loss. There is no city that compared with New Orleans with its guaranteed "get happy" vibe.

Whether it was walking around on Bourbon Street listening to jazz with the now-eerily named hurricane drink in hand, or eating jambalaya, gumbo, po'boys or beignets, this city made you feel happy. Waiters and shopkeepers were charming and frequently funky, tourists were having an infectiously good time.

Now what will become of the French Quarter with its shuttered windows and rich history? And the voodoo tours with a stop at the cemetery where bodies are buried above ground because the water level was so high. And the Garden District with its charming, historic homes.

Most of all, what will become of the people? Will they even live here again?

It is heartbreaking to imagine that New Orleans — on the list of must-visit places — is off the list for now.

Every traveler who has visited is sending heartfelt thoughts and perhaps a little voodoo charm — coming backatcha, New Orleans.

Copyright © Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)


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