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Serve in post-Katrina New Orleans

Letter to the Editor | Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Almost 13 months after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still drowning. But if you don’t know this already, I’m going to have a hard time convincing you in an editorial piece. I can’t pick you up and put you in the middle of the Ninth Ward, so you can see the damage in an inescapable 360-degree panorama. I can’t personally introduce you to residents living with their six grandkids in a small, cramped trailer on a never-ending camping trip in an empty, toxic neighborhood. I can’t show you the effect on the soul of spray-painted body counts on every single house, or tell you what it smells like when a hundred thousand houses are inundated with toxic black mold, and the garbage piles up on the streets with no one to collect it.

I can tell you that it takes over 24 hours to see a doctor at any ER in New Orleans, but until you know people with no health insurance and how you’ll have to beg the doctors to give them decent treatment, you’ll have no idea what the medical crisis means. I can tell you about the suicides and the drug wars and the National Guard occupation, but you won’t know what it means to live there – to see that in your home, your city.

Luckily, there’s a solution to all this. Come and see it for yourself.

Come, and help struggling families gut their houses so they can start to get back on their feet. Come, and stand in solidarity with residents, because no one else is on their side. Come, and bear witness to one of the greatest tragedies of our generation, meet some of the most resilient people in the world, and do your part to end their suffering.

The CSC’s Gulf Coast Student Task Force is putting together a trip, from Oct. 14-20. One week isn’t a lot of time, but the more people that make the trip, the more work that can be accomplished.

If you need further reason to go, I ask you to think about this. Imagine if your city, Chicago or Dallas or New York, wherever you’re from – imagine everyone leaving, and not knowing who was coming back. Imagine your entire life – your elementary school, the corner where you used to get ice cream with your friends, the movie theatre where you had your first kiss, your entire life’s memory map – all under 15 feet of the most toxic sludge you can conjure in your mind.

These people lost everything, and it’s our duty, our obligation as members of the human race, to do everything we can for them. Because I know if it was my city, and my family and my history, I would want as much help as possible. We owe it to New Orleans. We owe it to ourselves as Americans.

If you are interested, and I hope you are, please contact me at adejong@nd.edu or Caity Schneeman at cschneem@nd.edu as soon as


Alli DeJong



Sept. 18