Day 1: On the road

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— 6:15 p.m. Monday, March 20, 2006

On the snow and slush laden car ride to Denver International Airport, Melinda and I talked about what we were going to do in New Orleans, the sources we wanted to talk to and the kind of photographs I hoped to capture.

All of that seems simple enough.

What we couldn't get a grasp on are the sights, sounds and smells of the city. We have so many questions going into this week:

How bad is the devastation now, seven months after Hurricane Katrina?

Did many residents stay in their hometown, out of loyalty or desperation?

Is there still water in the streets?

Are there restaurants for people to eat at?

Are houses sitting abandoned with food still in their refrigerators?

Does the city feel cold and lonely?

Will the spirit of New Orleans ever be the same?

I have butterflies in my stomach as I sit here waiting for our plane to take off. I'm nervous about how I'll react and how this trip will affect me. What I'm most anxious about is whether I'll be able to tell the story of the people of New Orleans and the 32 Northwest Coloradans there to help out well enough. I just hope I can do their story justice.

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