City’s magic fades, world seems darker – Written on September 5, 2005 and originally posted in USA Today and the Montreal Gazette

New Orleans was on my list of places to visit before I die. Well, in March 2003, I decided to make that dream a reality. My sister and I headed off to that wonderful, magical, mysterious city.

When people think of New Orleans, the image of Mardi Gras usually surfaces. But there is more to that amazing city:

• Cafe du Monde, with its dark, rich coffee and its powdered doughnuts. Sitting in the cafe watching people pass is one of my fondest memories. The cafe may not be there anymore.

• Getting out of the airport and feeling that scorching heat and a wonderful, laid-back atmosphere. It was hard to believe it was the United States.

• Warm and friendly people, with a Southern drawl and a hospitality that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. I wonder how many of those people are gone now.

• A streetcar that takes you back to another place and time.

• The majestic trees in the Garden District that have existed longer than most can remember. I wonder whether their strong trunks held.

• The cemeteries through which the wonderful and mysterious history of New Orleans could be discovered. Some things are irreplaceable.

• The French Quarter — an inexplicable mixture of culture and debauchery that cannot be found anywhere else.

• The jazz that could be heard on every corner at any time of the day. Where are those wonderful sounds now?

When I took a tour of the city, our guide told us to take a good look because one day, in our lifetime, New Orleans would probably sink and cease to be. I never would have thought that not two years later, it might actually come to pass.

A world without the richness and vibrancy of New Orleans … everything seems a little darker and quieter now, don’t you think?