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A Night to Remember, F'Sure

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Just as everyone who lived in New Orleans 13 months ago will always remember where they were when Katrina struck, all of us who still live here will never forget where we were -- or how it felt -- last Monday night, when the Superdome reopened and the Saints (as well as the city) kicked butt.

I would never want to downplay a Saints victory, particularly one over the hated Falcons, but the game's outcome was secondary to the greater victory that New Orleans experienced both within the city and internationally. The Saints' win was icing on the cake, to be sure, and how sweet it was! The greater victory, however, was the indescribable psychological boost that the entire evening gave those of us who have been here for the past year, struggling to rebuild against odds that seemed to grow by the day. We needed the win.

If anyone hereabouts harbored any doubts as to New Orleans' ability to recover, or as to the inevitability of our city's ultimate recovery, last Monday night should have put those doubts to rest.

Make no mistake, we still have a long, long way to go. We will experience disappointments along the way. The Saints will drop a few, the mayor will utter a few (more) inanities, and the feds will let us down again. But we will endure. Last Monday taught us that, and more.

The evening was rich in symbolism. Before the football Saints walked onto the field, a team of living saints -- Katrina's first responders -- led fans into the stadium. Many of those same fans were last in the dome during and after the storm. Their emotions could not be put into words. And of course, the Superdome itself, a symbol of so much human suffering during the days of Katrina, has now become our city's most prominent symbol of recovery and renewal.

One of the recurring questions posed by visiting journalists, no doubt in an effort to show objectivity amid so much positive spin, was why the city and state chose to spend $185 million renovating the Superdome when there were so many homes waiting to be rebuilt. They didn't come up with any answers on their own, mostly because they couldn't find anybody from here who thought that renovating the dome -- and renovating it first -- was a bad idea.

Even before Katrina, the Superdome was a metaphorical "home" to every New Orleanian. Now, in the wake of the storm -- and as we stand on the cusp of recovery -- it's our shared homestead. So why not rebuild it first? Bringing back the dome reflects our determination to overcome the worst hardships that Katrina dished out. Add to that the Saints' emotional triumph, and it was a night to remember, f'sure.

It took a lot of work on the part of a lot of people to get the dome back in shape. I'd like to single out two parties -- Superdome manager Doug Thornton and the people of Broadmoor LLC, the local contractor hired to handle the renovations. Thornton, who lost his Lakeview home when the 17th Street Canal floodwall broke, spent virtually every waking minute of the past year working to bring back the dome. Broadmoor, under the management of company executive (and New Orleans native) Roy Mouledous, completed all the tasks that were expected to be done by Sept. 25 two weeks ahead of schedule. Moreover, the vast majority of Broadmoor's subcontractors and suppliers were local firms.

All in all, it was a great night for New Orleans.

Bringing back the Superdome reflects our determination to - overcome the worst hardhips thad Katrina dished out. - TRACIE MORRIS SCHAEFER
  • Tracie Morris Schaefer
  • Bringing back the Superdome reflects our determination to overcome the worst hardhips thad Katrina dished out.

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