Sunday, April 09, 2006

"Let me tell you a story about Al Gore, Geraldo Rivera and a Corporate Jet"

We're here! The "Hofstra 5" are all settled in New Orleans -our home of the next 6 days.

We arrived in the city early--our flight touching ground at 9:30 am. Our hotel rooms weren't yet prepared, so we navigated our minivan towards the Riverwalk area and the French Quarter. Alex had told me about the St. Louis Basilica and I was looking forward to attending Mass at the oldest, continuously active cathedral in the United States, established in 1720. Spending some time in Church permitted me a chance to reflect on the abundant blessings I have been given and to pray that I would be able to lend support and assistance to this city and her citizens.

This evening the hurricane Student Network welcomed us to the City of New Orleans at an Orientation Session at the Bridge Lounge. We met other volunteering law students from Pace University and together we learned about our assignments and heard about the on- going struggles that the people here face every day.

As the orientation session began, a man named Tommy came into the room where we were meeting. After saying hello, he told us he was from New Orleans and heard that we were here to volunteer our time and talents to assist with Katrina related issues. He welcomed us to his city and thanked us for coming--saying that he truly appreciated our presence and our desire to lend support.

After the meeting, Alex and I went over to thank Tommy for his encouragement and his friend Rudy gave us a huge smile and said, "Have I got a story for you! It involves Al Gore, Geraldo Rivera and a corporate jet." Rudy then began to tell us his "evacuating story". While this storyteller propelled us through an amusing and self effacing epic, the truth of his story laid beneath his witty recitation. And yes, his evacuation did include a run in with Geraldo Rivera, a rescue by All Gore and a corporate jet to Texas. However, his story also included the harsh realty of evacuating his elderly parents, 28 hours in an overcrowded, understaffed hospital and the cold truth that he was leaving his home not knowing if or when he would return.

People here have told me to listen to the locals--they say I'll discover more listening to their stories then I ever will listening to the news. So here I am, hoping to lend a hand. And I guess, more importantly, I'll be listening.

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