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Better Days II-

In 2005 New Orleans and the Gulf Coast was devistated when Hurricane Katrina hit the area. None of us can forget the horrible images from that storm. The impact was magnified when it became apparent that we could not get help to people in a rapid manner. For days, people suffered as public services struggled to return some sense of normalcy to New Orleans.

On January 12, 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake leveled the city of Port-au-Prince, Hati. Again we have images of complete devastation, loss on a scale to horrible to contemplate. In many ways the images mirror what we saw after Hurricane Katrina.

On Saturday, January 16, 2010 an American football game is being played. On first glance it’s nothing really remarkable. It’s a game, and not really significant when you look at the horrors in Hati. But take another look. This game is between the Arizona Cardinals and the New Orleans Saints.

It’s easy to forget now with time and distance just how bad things were in New Orleans. The Superdome had been turned into an emergency shelter. It became a symbol for the chaos and despair after the storm. People trapped, unable to get basic services, living in conditions unimaginable in America. The battered dome was a symbol for a destroyed city. There was talk of the Saints relocating to San Antonio, Texas on a permanent basis. There was talk that New Orleans would never be able to recover, that the city would fade into obscurity and literally be wiped off the map.

A determined group of New Orleans leaders refused to let that happen. They pushed, lobbied, and fought. A little over a year later, the New Orleans Saints returned to the city of New Orleans.

I wrote the following that night, watching Monday Night Football.

“So take these words
And sing out loud
Cuz everyone is forgiven now
Cuz tonight’s the night the world begins again”

–“Better Days” The GooGooDolls

Tonight football returns to the city of New Orleans. It’s been over a year since the world stopped spinning for folks there and on the Gulf Coast. For the people of New Orleans the return of Monday Night Football is a graphic demonstration that even with all the work still surrounding them- there’s progress.

The Superdome was a scene of horror a year ago. Dark, dank, overflowing toilets, people who had gone there as a last resort trapped in a modern day Inferno. People died in horrible ways in the dark of the Superdome. The pictures we all saw can’t begin to capture the terror those trapped felt. The smells, the sounds, those will be with those folks for a lifetime. Imagine seeing everything you owned washed away. Imagine leaving family, pets, friends behind thinking they would be safe only to return and find them gone. Lives were truly ended the day Katrina hit.

From day 1, there was a push to get the Saints back into the city. The key question was- can the Superdome be saved? Can this building that’s dominated the skyline of the city be saved. Can the soul of a city be saved? The interior of the Dome was considered a hazmat site post Katrina. They found blood in random places in the dome for months after. A dedicated team of architects, builders, day laborers, and ordinary citizens decided to make the impossible happen. It takes years to build a stadium. This team had one year to rebuild a dream. They worked around the clock, gutted the building and did something amazing. This scene of horror and hopelessness has been rebuilt. The people of New Orleans today can gather around their televisions, tailgate, and reconnect with old friends. They can show the rest of America that while they are down, the city is far from dead.

Tonight the world begins again. Tonight the New Orleans Saints come marching home.”

It’s been 4 years since that night. The New Orleans Saints have continued to lead the community in recovery. This day, they look for a chance to bring a Super Bowl appearance to a still healing city. It seemed at the time that life in New Orleans would never again be normal. It won’t be. It can be better. That’s one of the lessons sports shows us.

Haiti faces a long and difficult recovery. The obstacles are greater, the poverty deeper, the odds against them higher. Yet history shows us that nothing is impossible. With hope, faith, and a heck of a lot of hard work the impossible can become reality.

Go Saints, Go New Orleans, Go Haiti.