The worst part of a major hurricane rarely ends when the rain stops and winds calm.
Hurricane Ida bashed much of the southeast United States on Sunday evening, but the effects continue to linger.
In New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana, over one million people were left without power during a heatwave that seems to be as dangerous as the storm that preceded it. The heat index has climbed to as high as 108 degrees in the New Orleans metro area, which is facing the possibility of three weeks or more without reliable power.
Several parishes are under an advisory to boil their water, and others have no running water at all.
Despite the disastrous situation, there is a strong focus on resilience and recovery.
I recently moved to the region, so this was my first time to navigate hurricane preparation and work through the recovery that follows. Many natives I’ve met express positive mindsets as they work to bring themselves and their neighbors out from the rubble of a battered city.
The residents of one apartment complex in the Lower Garden District gathered outside to relish a cool breeze and ended up planning to share food the next day before perishables expired in the summer heat.
“I’m just going to grill everything I can,” one man said. “Even if I can’t eat it all, someone else will.”
Approximately one mile away, workers and volunteers of the World Central Kitchen (WCK) were busy preparing meals for anyone who could come get them.
Meanwhile, NOCHI, a culinary school in downtown New Orleans, has transformed into a well-oiled machine producing thousands of meals to be distributed throughout the region.
The inner workings of WCK are powered by a team of experts who travel nationally to sites of various natural disasters to provide relief. In addition, local volunteers assist the team.
Dozens of people have joined WCK staff in New Orleans to help prepare food, package it for shipment and serve it to the public.
College students, retirees and even professional chefs worked together in shifts during the past week to provide ham and cheese sandwiches, and other quality food items. With community members lined up waiting for their portion, the team worked as quickly as possible to serve everyone.
On Wednesday morning, Sept. 1, an 18-wheeler full of blocks of ice made its slow journey through the streets of New Orleans. By 8:15 a.m., hundreds of people lined up for their chance to buy ice directly from the wholesale supplier.
Despite the early hour, the Louisiana swamp heat was already beating down on residents. Yet, no matter their discomfort, many found ways to make the most of their situation by sharing snacks and jokes as they stood in line for hours.
One woman commented on how she purchased nearly 300 pounds of ice the day before, driving around to deliver it to anyone who was in need.
When traveling around the city on the roads that are clear enough to navigate, you are likely to see any number of shuttered restaurants, forced to keep their doors closed either due to structural damage or the continued power outage.
Of the restaurants that have managed to reopen, long lines and wait times for to-go orders seems to be the norm. However, a few establishments have avoided this entirely by giving away food for free to those in need.
For example, the lower section of Magazine Street is a posh area of town, filled with all kinds of diverse restaurants. At almost any time of day right now (outside of curfew hours), traveling down a few blocks will almost inevitably lead you to dining establishments at which you won’t know what you’re going to receive, but you know it will be a delicious, hot, free meal – all greatly appreciated during the aftermath of a natural disaster.
If there has been one takeaway for me from the events of Ida, it has been the resilience of the people of New Orleans.
Faced with one of the worst disasters to hit the state since Hurricane Katrina – and in the middle of a pandemic, at that – you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone with a truly hopeless mindset.
Instead, people spend their day helping their neighbors, acting out of humanity’s most selfless impulses. In the wake of tragedy, goodness persists. Nowhere is that clearer than in this place, a city that still remembers the painful losses from the tragic storm over 15 years ago.
That said, New Orleans deserves to benefit from these selfless acts that her people exhibit. Finding ways to share your resources, time and prayers will provide immense help in getting people back to safety and their lives back in order.
Real, physical danger still exists because of Ida’s impact across the U.S. We could all stand to learn a little from the people of New Orleans.
A graduate of Baylor University where she studied Science Research Fellows as a pre-med student with a philosophy minor, she also served as president of Gamma Alpha Upsilon, an unofficial LGBTQ student organization at the university. She is serving as an Ernest C. Hynds Jr. intern for the fall 2021 semester.