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New Orleans Marching On

New Orleans Saints fans celebrate in the French Quarter in New Orleans after the Saints defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010. (AP)

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Saints mania in New Orleans today. The winners of Super Bowl XLIV parading through the jam-packed streets of the Big Easy, where Mardi Gras is already underway and Fat Tuesday’s annual blow-out is just a week off.

That’s a lot of happy frenzy for a city that five years ago this year was almost killed by Hurricane Katrina.

Now it’s got a big new trophy, a new mayor elected, and a big, big smile. But big challenges, too, along the levees and in streets still haunted by the hurricane.

This hour, On Point: We go to New Orleans to look at the city behind the Super Bowl victory.


Stephanie Grace, political columnist for The Times-Picayune.

Jason Berry, author, investigative reporter and New Orleans historian. His books include “Up From the Cradle of Jazz: New Orleans Music Since World War II” and “Last of the Red Hot Poppas.”

Tom Watson, senior pastor of Watson Memorial Teaching Ministries in New Orleans.

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  • Michael

    What a great and fast game, they had payton benched most of the game. The Saint earn it and i hope N.O. can use it to help recover mentally.

  • Scot Couturier

    Having only spent a limited time working in the city, it is astounding to me how much the city rallies around the Saints. The organization gives so much to the greater Gulf Coast, whether its extensive community outreach or a great Sunday of football. I believe this Superbowl championship will have a profound affect on the area; the heart of the city really is in the Super-Dome.

  • Dennis Kerr

    When they were 10 points down, I predicted they would lose. Until that one guy who ran the ball…

    I am still looking up the video clip I am talking about. Then I will leave another comment with the link.

    But when I saw one of the players keep running after he already received two tackle attempts, I knew something. I knew they were TRYING HARD.

    I said to my wife, who is Japanese, “I think they could win”. My wife and kids laughed at me.

    The whole irony of that conversation was that I have learned from my Japanese friends how important they feel effort is. In education, even if the smartest kid in the room is not putting out superior effort he might not get a good grade.

    “No”, I said, “they are working harder than the colts. Since we know that both teams at a Superbowl are both really good, the Saints really have a chance. Did you see how hard that guy worked to keep going after they hit him?”

    “Whatever!” they said and ignored me until they were ahead 1 point.

    “You see!!” I gloated, “you should have figured this out. Japanese people respect hard work for a reason. Now the only thing is that now the Colts are behind they might start working hard too, and then it could be anyone’s game. But I think the Saints will win.”

    My wife who started rooting for the Colts was upset that I was right, and the reason I was right.

    If regular people in New Orleans are motivated to make things better, like the team they offered up to the Superbowl, then I have a good feeling about them.

  • Brett

    I have not really followed football very much since I was a kid (when the Colts were in Baltimore!!!) but I watched this game. It WAS a fast game, and the Saints had a great second half…I wanted them to win (at first, it didn’t seem like it was going to happen, as the Colts’ defense just didn’t seem like they were going to let it happen). The onside kick was brilliant! And the second half was the Saints to have…New Orleans needed that psychological boost.

  • http://www.wbur.org Allison

    Does the city tap into the wonderful universities (Tulane-where my husband went)) to help with any of the continued problems? Young, energetic academics can be a wonderful asset to invigorate and provide some new ideas and help to a struggling area. Has there been a drop in enrollment in the university?

  • Sammi

    As a volunteer from Buffalo, who has helped in rebuilding efforts the Saints win was a joyous celebration of the strength and tenacity of the people of New Orleans. But I also realize the tremendous recovery efforts that are ongoing. This summer I worked in the Lower 9th with All Souls Episcopal Church hanging drywall. The building a former Walgreens was a base for the Episcopal Church where relief supplies were handed out for years following Katrina. The corners of St. Claude Ave and Flood St. became hallowed ground and a natural place to build a church and community center. In a sense All Souls has tried to fill in the gaps left by the empty store fronts, helping to work on homes,supplying necessities, and opportunities young people wouldn’t otherwise have had. All souls has a deep understanding of what is needed to keep kids off the street as well as how to help them grow as faithful people.

    I wish I was with ya’ll to celebrate!

  • Robin Foster

    In NO a year ago, still felt empty of people. On a beautiful January day, empty city parks. Some areas rebuilt, some half abandoned. Sitting in the Parkway Bakery having a roast beef po’ boy surrounded by a lively, friendly crowd from the neighborhood and there are empty lots around the building and a boarded up hospital visible across the highway. Too many stories of discouragment of people trying to rebuild, trying to go home.

  • Joe


    Hard to get through on phone, especially at work. But I really wanted to comment. Grew up outside of Boston, moved here out of college in early 80′s. All my family lives in Boston, I visit at least twice a year, keep up with what’s going on there. That’s just background, here’s what I want to say:

    1. Saints will do for N.O. what Sox ’04 World Series victory did for Boston, i.e., change the self-perception from losers, whether hard-luck or lovable, to one of confidence.

    2. Saints more important to N.O. than Sox to Boston in this way: Boston has many more unifying institutions that everyone feels part of. N.O. does not have so many, although it does have its music and culinary traditions that are somewhat shared. But N.O. needs more than Saints to unify around.

    3. Damage to city is still very extensive and evident. I live in Gentilly, just about halfway between rive and lake pontchartrain. 24 houses on my block, 20 completely repaired and inhabited. But within half a mile north, east, and west of my street are many blocks with more than 50% or even 70% vacant houses or empty lots due to Katrina. These were solid middle class neighborhoods before Katrina. Whenever I have a chance to show out-of-towners these areas.

    One caution: PR message that N.O. is viable and investment-worthy is valid and important, but by no means is the recovery process over.

  • http://ktornquist.com Kathryn Tornquist

    I was so moved by Drew Breese’s comment that they were not JUST motivated by winning a championship, but for the whole city…. There is a new realization in the Integral Enlightenment movement that is about expanding the idea of how to achieve the elusive “personal enlightenment.” That new realization is that one cannot accomplish it for the sake of one’s own spiritual maturity – that it can only be achieved by a deep inspiration for others. I think the TRUTH of Drew’s comment is a phenomenal example of that principle.

    Personal Enlightenment: nonreactive Presence, behaving from an awareness that we are SO MUCH MORE than our personalities and the bodies those personalities live in – reagardless of whether one comes from a religious or a nonreligious spiritual perspective/belief system.

  • Glenn

    I’m now in Boston (post-Katrina), but as a lifetime resident of New Orleans I don’t know if the significance of this game can be fully appreciated by the rest of the world. It’s indescribable. I don’t follow much football, but this is about so much more than the game.

    The election of Mitch Landrieu as Mayor, to replace the ineffective Ray Nagin, is almost as big an event in my book. If good things happen in 3′s (as is often said of bad things), I can’t wait to see what the next good thing will be.

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com akilez

    Who said being a Perfectionist is Bad.

    The Saints prove to the world the being Perfect is the only way to overcome effects of Katrina strategy by winning the Super Bowl. The entire nations was for this great city that was devastated by mother nature and forgotter by Bush Administration.

    When majority of Haitians immigrants live in New Orleans
    The victims of Katrina will again have a wonderful Mardi Gras for 2010.

    According to surveys the City of New Orleans is the happiest city in America for 2009.

  • Ann

    HOW can we get a DEDICATED ORGANIZATION for the man who called from Omaha and for other Katrina/New Orleanians who are in Nebraska.

    There are SO many people in this diaspora, but could we start with this gentleman & the people he knows of in Omaha. HOW can we get them funding of all types that would: 1) take an inventory of the skills & abilities of this group; 2) take an inventory of what skills the individuals in this group need to learn to plan, design, and build neighborhoods in New Orleans (that, if not in the exact same, potentially dangerous land area of the city, could, nevertheless, be a geographic area with similar proximity to the city, and which would be FIRST for the very people who were neighbors in the past); 3) take an inventory within the host city of Omaha & the host state of Nebraska to see who could be employed to teach these skills; get federal money to allow the Katrina/New Orleanians in Nebraska to get temporary housing IN NEW ORLEANS while they begin the work of re-building their old neighborhood (if it is possible) or of building the neighborhood they planned & designed.

    Not only would the New Orleanians have new skills, but their former skills would be taken into account and used purposefully within the plan for & building of their new home neighborhood. In other words, if someone were a fabulous, artistic plasterer (I got that idea from a TV show about a real man), the homes would HAVE gorgeous plaster designs (they would NOT be considered too expensive). If someone was a fantastic musician (and you know there will be many!), they would be employed to play live music while people worked (maybe not during noisy carpentry, but definitely during dreary-dull painting jobs!). Everyone who knew HOW to do something would also have apprentices AND also teach more broadly to little kids & adults so that everyone would see how things were done, possibly giving them insights into how their own lives & work might develop over time. By the way, the people from Nebraska who knew how…& then taught their skill, would possibly be learning…how to teach! Those individuals in the diaspora would have a guiding light within themselves & within their experiences that would have a designated weight within this whole thing. We would want to offer help, not to hijack people who had already been displaced.

    IF we could do this for just this ONE group of people, just because this gentleman called into the show, other sponsor groups could do something similar for others in the diaspora. Perhaps IF there is already a comprehensive list of those in the diaspora (names, current places, do they want to return, do they want to return to their same neighborhood), then this could be done with more organization & less chance of missing out on people. If there is no list, perhaps a group could do that work (that would probably be best headed up by someone from N.O.). So, yes, there might be an arbitrary quality to the fact that we started with this group of people, but if we started, it could build, and other groups would follow.

    I have never been an organizer type of person; I’m better at brain storming. But, I wonder, by my putting this idea OUT THERE, can anyone else contribute so that we actually get people back to New Orleans, back to their network of family & friends & neighbors, back with their skills & contributions recognized as an integral part of their city, but loaded with new skills, new & safer dwellings, community places, etc., etc.

    I would much prefer that we spent our money on projects like this to develop our economies than to go on with Capitalism the way it has been going. At its most benevolent, investment is supposed to help people start projects. At its most evil, it is money betting on money going up or going down. Just lower on the evil-scale than that is money making money off of excessively high interest that is owed, rather than on the purchase price (especially when the banks themselves can borrow at record LOW interest rates from the Fed!). Can we take America back in this way? We WOULD need government help at some points, but a lot of this inkling of an idea I’ve put out is about people with skills having jobs paid for by fund-raised money AND federal money to help others learn those skills; the people learning would be paid in the same way. Meanwhile, the people without those skills might know about something else entirely and/or be able to see about the skill set that the person with the skills has been unable to see because the skill was too easy for them, and thus, they were blind to some of the alternative methods and/or uses for the skill. THIS would be true investment: reciprocity, sharing, giving and thanking. And, at the same time that I would hope that the Investment Class would be more benevolent in their thinking, I would hope that the unions would not say that some part of this project belongs to their domain alone. People in New Orleans & in its diaspora, and America’s poor NEED our help, and that means they need MORE than just an occasional check from us. I believe that Habitat for Humanity and other groups, some spearheaded by individuals, ARE doing some wonderful work in New Orleans, but there needs to be even more work done, and, as this man has said, he feels the people in the diaspora have been forgotten.

    I have metastatic cancer, so I don’t know how much help I can be, but I would like to send this idea out there.

  • Paul King

    Many of the questions concerning the recovery of New Orleans can be found in the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. (Available in most libraries) A Level 5 leader is the first order of business. Next, the right people in the right positions.

    Good luck New Orleans! Who Dat?

  • steven

    I have lived in New Orleans/Metairie 2 different times over the last 25 years. As luck or fate would have it we left NOLA in July 2005. I dearly love the town but lets be clear, it was a third-world city pre-diluvian; education less than second class, high crime rate, lack of infrastructure, rampant bigotry and racism, accepted corruption at all levels of government and no leaders willing to address any of the real issues.

    The mighty Mississippi River doesn’t even want to be there. It has unnaturally been diverted from the Atchafalaya Basin thanks to the Corp of Engineers. I would have to say it is not a place to re-build a great city.

  • Patty

    I visited New Orleans last year and took a tour. The bus driver wondered aloud whether the Ninth Ward was being left “as is” for the sake of tourist dollars.

    I also wonder whether it makes sense to rebuild in such a vulnerable site. Are there places where Mother Nature might not have such a target?

  • Brian Schnitker

    With all due respect, is the lower 9th ward really an area that should be built back up. It is below, or close to sea level and I am sure at risk of another hurricane. Maybe the area should be made a wetland and allowed to be reclaimed by nature. When you live under the volcano, you are going to get lava in your back yard. I know these displaced people need somewhere to go, but is the lower 9th ward the best place.

  • Jim

    Drew Brees was amazing and so is New Orleans. i miss Bourbon Street and the people there. I love the culture and the music return to pre-Katrina days.

  • http://www.filipinoboston.blogspot.com akilez

    GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION OF NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPTARTMENT IS LAUNCHED: Law enforcement officials from Gretna prevented the evacuees, most of them black, from crossing a Mississippi River bridge into the predominantly white suburb. [Los Angeles Times, 8/4/06]

  • Glenn

    @Steven, et. al.,
    You should be thankful that you live in a city that has no corruption, no incompetent leadership, no racism, no poverty, and no crime. You didn’t mention where you live now, but I’d sure like to know.

    And I suppose we could proactively dismantle other cities that are in low-lying areas, are built on earthquake fault lines, are in the path of tornados, hurricanes, ice storms, torrential rains, or mudslides, or are built of flammable materials. Think of the savings.

    Excuse my sarcasm, but people should think twice before suggesting that any city is dispensable, least of all one with the cultural heritage, history, and sense of community that is New Orleans. You should think about how it would feel to lose everything you own, or what would go through your mind as you watched a crane demolish what was left of your house. Then imagine listening to the casual comments of others who would have the very existence of the city questioned and the memory of it erased. The people of New Orleans have lost enough. Perhaps your time would be better spent being thankful for what you have.

  • Chris

    I have the deepest sympathy for the people of New Orleans and I hope that this win gives them hope and inspiration to keep rebuilding their city. Listening to the segment, I have heard so many needs that still need to be addressed 5 years after Katrina (schools, hospitals, roads, sewage systems), but what of the fact that another hurricane could be down the road? What if anything is being done to better prepare this region for future storms?

  • pete

    Someone please tell me why a sane person would remain in a city built several feet below sea level. Only those with little or no options, or those attempting to profit from them. It is no wonder the city is having a decline in population. It will always be vulnerable no matter how you work on it. It took us a while to stop paying for beach mansions destroyed in the regular path of hurricanes, mobile homes residing in tornado alleys, and properties that lie in 100 year flood planes…yet we still pay to rebuild a city destined to be nearly destroyed by the next not even category 5 storm. I am not heartless to those who were devastated by the tragedy, yet I am amazed by those who are not wondering why no one is crying:”fool me twice, shame on me”.

  • Janet Zerlin Fagan

    I would like to know if On Point is actually broadcast on WWNO in New Orleans. Do they get your show? How would I find that out? I have many friends and relatives down there who would love to listen to it on their radios.

    As a NOLA native I enjoyed today’s show. Thank you!

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