There are three images that define the year 2019 in New Orleans: one is defiant, the other is humorously pathetic and the other is tragic.
That defiance was enacted around town on Feb. 3, the day of what to the rest of the nation was Superbowl Sunday, but what in New Orleans was the “No Call Bowl,” a community ritual of venting against one of the worst referee judgements in sports history and that likely prevented the Saints from going to the Superbowl. The people of New Orleans stood united in their venom, so much so that on Superbowl Sunday local events were scheduled to counter the broadcast of the Superbowl. New Orleans proved itself to be a city not to be messed around with because it could party hardy. The city even had an impact on the national ratings of the game, which finished with some the lowest numbers ever. As for the big game itself, we have heard that it was played anyway and that the undeserving Los Angeles Rams did not perform well and lost. That’s all that mattered.
As for the humorously pathetic: one hundred years from now, and beyond, people will talk about the day that the city’s drains were so clogged that an entire abandoned automobile was found stuffed in one. Of all the debate and analysis of the drainage systems, that was an image that people could easily visualize—a mental picture on which to cling. To be fair, the fact that this city, much of which lies below sea level, can be drained at all is an engineering marvel, but nevertheless it needs work. That car may have done the city a favor by providing an image of the severity. We can be thankful that it was there and thankful that it was removed and most thankful that it was not an 18-wheeler.
We do not mean to equate the tragedy of the fallen Hard Rock hotel in the same category as the other two. It was a disaster that stands alone, made worse by the loss of three lives. The image of a crippled crane, which was lying precariously close to the unfinished building, being purposely launched by an implosion and then impaling a block of Rampart Street with its landing underscores the sheer terror. To their credit, local first responders, being summoned on an otherwise quiet Saturday morning, performed marvelously and they may have saved other lives by their diligence. They were a vision of heroism.
New Orleans is seldom dull and certainly 2019 was not. The year will be remembered by what we saw and by what one person did not see.