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Stories from the Ninth Ward Day 1: KU Engineers Without Borders Help Rebuild New Orleans

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

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Editor's Note: Seven students from the University of Kansas chapter of Engineers Without Borders are spending their spring break in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward working with the group Historic Green to rebuild the area in a way that preserves its history while creating a sustainable future. Each day, one of the students is sending a recap of their journey. These are their stories.

Day 1

Sitting 14 hours in a brand new Kia is like hiking 14 miles in a brand new pair of boots – things tend to get a little sore after a while.  But it was totally worth it.  On our way to New Orleans, we stopped by a place called Osceola’s World Famous Cheeses to pick out our favorite for the road (mine was a tie between “Beer Cheddar” and “Blueberry White”).  At one point, some of the guys got into a vibrant discussion about whether Arby’s was using halogen interior lighting or incandescent.  That’s when I realized I was traveling with a true family of engineers, and I felt very much at home.

On the road

Along the highways approaching New Orleans, the sight was amazing – all the trees stood like tall charred sticks against the orange-colored (or should I say halogen) night sky.  The numerous factories and refineries looked like their own city sprawling along the horizon in the distance.  We were finally here.

We got a call from Katrina Corps, informing us not to arrive at the sleeping quarters they had previously designated (which apparently had become a crack house).  Rather, they told us to crash at Camp Hope’s new location, about 20 minutes from downtown.  Camp Hope is an 800-person volunteer lodging camp, with facilities resembling a European hostel (adventurous atmosphere included).  We finally checked in at 11 p.m. Saturday night.  After filling out all the paperwork, Bruce at the front desk sent us to bed with these words of caution: “Just remember: if you die, too bad.”

James Iliff; freshman; architectural engineering; Topeka, Kan.


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