The Heart (and Soul) of a Saint

Dayne DurantiCorrespondent IJune 4, 2009

NEW ORLEANS - MAY 12:  Dogs chase after their jogging owners along the repaired levee wall in the Lower Ninth Ward May 12, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. A lawsuit in federal court in New Orleans pits five individuals and one business against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, claiming that a nagivation channel in the Mississippi River at the Gulf of Mexico outlet served as a funnel for the Hurricane Katrina storm surge in 2005 that overwhelmed the city levy system.  (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

This is sort of old news, but it is the first time I have written about it.

One year ago in February, I had the pleasure of visiting New Orleans for the first time. New Orleans was always a dream destination of mine, and I even tried to go there a couple of times, but I always ended up drunk in a Florida bar and just never got there.

I went as a guest of my wife, who was attending training for work. I was left to my own devices while my wife was at work, so I became a fixture at the hotel bar. I had the pleasure of meeting many locals who both worked at the bar and those who frequented it.

I, just like most of the world outside the Gulf Coast, sat glued to televisions and watched as Hurricane Katrina ravaged the life out of New Orleans. We watched the catastrophic failure of the city's protective structures, followed by the darkest side humanity revealed in a time of crisis. We as a nation cried and wished we could do more to help the people of New Orleans and Mississippi.

These were the images I brought with me to New Orleans. I should have left them at homethey had no place in the Big Easy.

I have never met a city of people with more resolve, courage, and heart than the good folks of New Orleans. They have been to hell and came back to cheers to it. The stories I was told by the people I spoke with were horrific, yet the manner they were told with was nothing short of uplifting.

I, of course, went to the French Quarter, and on the way was shown the scum line that was still on the highway walls about eight feet up. I was awed, yet the cab driver just laughed and said, "Yeah, Katrina. That was heavy."

After all that the people of New Orleans have been through, their faith has a face. A flag that they wave like a flag of victory. It is the New Orleans Saints.

You cannot go anywhere, see anyone, or do anything without seeing the influence and the hold the Saints have on this city.

Jerseys, stickers, signs, banners, and even graffiti on the walls. Saints, Saints, Saints!

If ever there was a city that needed something to believe in, it is New Orleans. And man do they have it.

A couple years back, there was talk of Tom Benson moving the Saints out of New Orleans. I couldn't even fathom the devastating effect something like that could have on the city.

Don't ever think about it again, Mr. Benson. If you do, walk down any street in New Orleans, and I guarantee you will change your mind. 

I am a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan and have been for many years. It's hard to have feelings for another team in the same division. But after visiting New Orleans. there is definitely a piece of my soul that mirrors the many signs I sawGo Saints!