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Checking in from New Orleans

I just got back from touring several communities outside of downtown New Orleans. No TV, radio or newspaper accounts can actually tell what has transpired, what is happening or what needs to happen here. It's unbelievable.  You run the full gamut of emotions from total disbelief to being overwhelmed by sadness to depression and then finally encouragement because the citizens here are staging a valiant comeback. It might take some time, but people here will persevere.

I've been to downtown New Orleans numerous times since my first visit here to cover the Sugar Bowl in 1987. That was my first major assignment, and what an exciting town, even in late January. But there are no bristling crowds here today on a sunny afternoon where the temperatures have reached the 70s. If I didn't know better, I'd think I was in downtown Cincinnati where everything closes at noon. This is a skeleton city compared to what New Orleans should be like on a gorgeous day like today. You travel to communities outside New Orleans, and there is so much devastation. A lot of the houses are still vacant. There are still numbers and letters spray painted on doors and homes where rescue workers went in to find any survivors of Hurricane Katrina. The numbers indicate the date the property was searched, how many people were rescued, and sometimes how many died. You see whole shopping centers abandoned and destroyed, and blocks of stores boarded up. You still see a lot of debris in the streets and homes where roofs and siding were blown off. In some of these areas, you don't see a lot of kids or pets on the streets. When you do see children playing, they're usually on streets littered with debris and glass. But at the same time, you see some families have come back to the neighborhoods. They are wearing work clothes, and you can hear the saws and see the electrical cords running from trees to generators as they try to get their lives and homes back together. Somewhere, there is always the constant sound of at least one hammer. In some areas, there are trailers where people live as they wait to get their homes repaired. One thing I noticed as I drove around, there weren't a lot of long faces. There was still a sense of pride, and you could see the resiliency. It's going to take some time, but they'll rebuild New Orleans.

Things get put in perspective here. Fans that are obsessed with their pro teams often amaze me. Their lives are shaped by if the Ravens win or lose on Sundays. I've always treated sports, especially on the pro level, as a game. It's a great escape from real life, and it's fun, but it's not life or death. It's not even close. After seeing some of the things I've seen in New Orleans today, I'm convinced even more to never change my mind.

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