Over the next 12 months we’ll be taking a deeper look at the past decade since Katrina on the Gulf Coast and into the future with a regular blog series, K+10.
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was the briefest of periods when it seemed uncertain whether New Orleans would come back. Some asked whether it should be rebuilt at all (unaware that while there was extensive flooding, much of the metro area had not flooded).
For New Orleanians, family and home were plenty enough reasons to return. To better understand why New Orleans is special to many more who haven’t lived here, let’s take a look at ten things we’d be without if New Orleans didn’t exist in the first place:
New Orleans’ diverse cultural background was the birthplace of Jazz, a musical style built around improvisation, rhythm, call-and-response, and dancing.
2. The Louisiana Purchase
The defeat of the British in 1815 at the Battle of New Orleans protected the United States’ recently-purchased Louisiana Territory, which the British could have chosen to keep, had they secured New Orleans. A motley crew that included local militia, free men of color, Choctaw Indians, and Jean Lafitte’s pirates were joined by Tennessee and Kentucky militia as they engaged the British downriver of the city and decisively turned back their attack.
3. The Port of New Orleans
Today, the Port of New Orleans is one of the busiest ports in the United States, moving 500 million tons of cargo a year, 60% of the nations grain exports and 20% of our coal and petroleum imports. This translates into 380,000 jobs nationally, $37 billion in economic output, and $2.8 billion in Federal tax revenue.
4. Victory on D-Day
Higgins Boats, the iconic landing craft (think Saving Private Ryan) that helped win World War II, were a New Orleans invention and were built at multiple factories throughout the Crescent City. Reflecting this and New Orleans’ role as a major military port and manufacturing center, the National WWII Museum was established in the Warehouse District.
5. Apollo and the Space Shuttle
For decades New Orleanians have helped send people out of this world, literally, manufacturing the first stage of the Saturn V rocket (Apollo Program) and the main fuel tank for the Space Shuttle. The Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East, just down Chef Menteur Highway from Camp Restore, is the site of continued rocket development for NASA as well as new Hollywood sound stages for film.
6. The Biggest Free Show on Earth
New Orleans’ Carnival Season is unmatched and has to be experienced to be believed. Most of it takes place outside the French Quarter and is family-friendly.
7. Too Many Great Books to Count
As a city seemingly destined for storytelling, New Orleans has inspired significant literary contributions over the years. NOLA-based and/or inspired authors include Kate Chopin, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Anne Rice, John Grisham and New Orleans’ own John Kennedy Toole, who introduced us to the one-and-only Ignatius J Reilly. There are many more.
A New Orleans creation, Jambalaya is a tasty combination of meat, vegetables and rice which literally means “mix-up,” according to one account. True to New Orleans fashion, there’s more than one story explaining the origin of the word.
French bread + fried seafood (or roast beef or french fries) + “dressed” (lettuce + tomato + mayo) = tasty awesomeness.
10. King Cake
New Orleans didn’t invent the King Cake, but is continuing to perfect it. And yes, there is a plastic baby inside each one.