The devastation to New Orleans is obviously extremely sad. I feel that much of the death could have been avoided with better emergency response plans to evacuate the poor who cannot pick up and move for themselves, because they simply do not have the money or transportation to do so. After living in the great city of New Orleans, I have no doubt that the people can and will rebuild; and once again the good times will roll.
However, my heart goes out to the people who lost loved ones to the storm and I pray that time will heal their sadness. The silver lining that I see in all of these tragedies brought about by mother nature is the compassionate response from people from all walks of life to help those people in need. We all should count our blessings and do what we can to live in service of others.
— Jamie, Real World: New Orleans cast member
I have never shared this story with anyone, not even my roommates.
If you remember the episode of The Real World: New Orleans that focused on me singing the National Anthem, you'd be hard pressed to spot the miracle that occurred because the moment, that in retrospect meant the most to me, was not taped or documented in any way except in my memory.
The night before I was to sing the National Anthem, I was a nervous wreck. I couldn't think straight, nor could I sleep. Even though I knew it was against the rules, I decided to sneak out when the house was asleep and take a walk around the neighborhood to calm my nerves. It was a rare moment, I was actually alone, no roommates, no cameras, no directors, I wasn't being taped....it was just me.
I walked down the street and saw a man sitting on the corner directly under a street light. I remember distinctly, he was wearing a old brown suit with a red and yellow tie,... kinda like what Fred Sanford would wear if he got dressed up. I thought about crossing the street to be safe, but something told me not to worry. I came up to him, he said nothing at first. Then I was about to cross the street when he asked, "Have you seen New Orleans?" I thought the question was kinda strange, but I answered yes anyway and tried to move on. He stopped me again, except this time he stood up and put his hand on my shoulder and asked the same question, "Have you seen New Orleans?" Mind you, it's late, it's dark, and there's some strange man asking me questions on an empty street, I thought the situation was about to take a turn for the worst, but as just as fear set in, he uttered the words "Peace be still'.
It was then that he pulled out a harmonica and played Amazing Grace with such passion and soul that he cried while he played. Instead of leaving, I sat down and listened until he was done. When he finished playing, he calmly placed his harmonica in his jacket breast pocket, turned to me and said, "Now you can say you've seen New Orleans....and "She" will always remember you young man. Let her be your guide and your strength." And on that note, he walked away. No goodbye.
A week later, after I sung the National Anthem, to celebrate, my roommates and I went out to eat. As we were sitting at the restaurant, a brass plaque for some reason caught my attention. The plaque read "The Hearts New Orleans". The picture above it was of the man I had met the night before on that lonely street corner. I asked the owner if he knew where I could find him because he gave me the greatest encouragement when I needed it the most.
The owner laughed and told me that "R.G.," the "Harmonica man," died fifteen years ago.
I can't explain my encounter that night, I do not believe in ghosts, but all I know is that when my heart needed strength, it came to me in the form of a harmonica playing man that wanted me to feel and see New Orleans for what she was. The history, the culture, the friendships, and the families that New Orleans had will never die. The passion and the pride of the city is too strong. Anyone seeking to find what New Orleans was all about only need to open their hearts and understand that as long as there is life and human spirit, New Orleans lives. The past will never be forgotten, and time can never erase what will forever be New Orleans.
To Sienna and all of the friends I've met and will forever cherish, I hope you and your families are safe. I love you with all my heart.
— David, Real World: New Orleans cast member