I am a Maryland native and a New Orleans adoptee in the second month of my medical residency. I spent six straight days caring for patients in the only functioning hospital left in New Orleans, the Ochsner Clinic Foundation.
I was relieved of duty when replacements started to arrive. As I drove west on Interstate 10, the only thoroughfare left out of New Orleans, I thought of its moniker, "the city that care forgot." I never fully understood that nickname until my drive out I-10, as I envisioned armed looters, my favorite restaurants underwater and historic buildings in flames, and I saw the haunted faces of those stranded by the side of the road.
My vision of New Orleans is not as bleak as that painted by the news coverage, though. I believe that we have the courage and resources to fix the city. I saw the fortitude of those left here whom the media never covered: The cafeteria workers in my hospital who produced three square meals a day in grueling 100-plus-degree temperatures; the phone operators who kept lines of communication open while staffers searched for lost family members; the stoic nurses who despite great personal losses continued to treat and shoulder the worries of those in need of care. The will of this city is not lost, and hope should not be, either.
Obviously, donations through reputable organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army will be of immediate relief to the people of the Gulf Coast. But just as important will be for people to not give up on New Orleans. The economic, social and cultural life of the city depends on its friends and visitors. The good times will roll again in this vibrant, decadent, musical city, be it in six months or a year. So come back and see us soon. We will be waiting.
As historian Will Durant wrote, "Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice."
Before we consider rebuilding New Orleans, perhaps we should look at and work with the geology, as Klaus Jacob noted [op-ed, Sept. 6]. What did we do to exacerbate the effects of Katrina? Did we withdraw too much groundwater, which caused land subsidence? Did we increase erosion and ground settling by not protecting the soil with roots of healthy plants? Did we increase the water level of the delta near the levee by cutting off the supply of sediment to the delta?
Are we going to repeat these activities to get ready for the next hurricane?