|A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
|The word "homecoming" will be redefined tonight. -- Former NFL commissioner, Paul Tagliabue
|"It's already Friday, but I can't seem to get Monday night out of my head. The Saints' victory in the
first game played in the Superdome since Hurricane Katrina was more--much more--than just a
win for a football team. It was a symbol of triumph and hope for a rebuilding city. Renovations
for what some called an impossible assignment had come in--and ahead of schedule. The
building was back for its intended purpose. But no one who entered it Monday night could
forget where it had been in the last year. Many people entered the stadium with tears in their
eyes. By the time local favorite, Irma Thomas, who'd lost her own home to flood waters, finished
singing the national anthem, even fewer eyes were dry. One of the vendors was overheard
joking that, instead of beer, he wished he'd applied for the Kleenex concession. But, by the end
of the night, the sold out crowd was joyfully celebrating what is hopefully a turned corner. As
one fan said, "Tonight wipes out a lot of hurt." -- Robin McElwee
|On top of the world: Superdome's contractor and architect standing on the building's roof.
Most people thought the job was all but impossible, but it came in under budget and ahead of schedule.
|"The Superdome is sold out for the season, a remarkable testament to the city's resiliency and
determination. People want their lives back. They've had so much taken away from them. Frankly, this
transcends football. It's about lives. It's about a community. It's about a historical American city that
needs to be rebuilt." -- Doug Thornton, Manager of the Louisiana Superdome
|Thousands wait for the doors of the Superdome to open. Below: the adjoining areas
held stages where entertainers performed during the hours leading up to the game.
Many businesses gave their employees the afternoon off.
|You've probably heard the expression, "And the crowd goes wild!"
|"I just spent two days in New Orleans touring the city with Saints wide receiver, Joe Horn, who was the
most outspoken player to advocate keeping the Saints in the city when owner, Tom Benson, infuriated
fans with plans to move the team, just when the city needed them most. Horn and I ran into many locals
along the way -- white, black, rich, poor -- everybody seemed to recognize him. They treated him like a
long-lost friend and he reciprocated. What amazed me, and I wasn't prepared for this, was that in the
midst of so much still-evident destruction, how much the Saints mean to these people. I have never
previously believed that sports served a higher purpose, but this trip changed all that for me. With the
indescribable devastation and the levees still unable of securing the city, New Orleans has a long way
to go. The Superdome reopening isn't as much a new beginning as it is a continued statement of hope.
In a place where hope couldn't be more important." -- Graham Bensinger
|A SMILE FOR THE FACE AND A TONIC FOR THE HEART....
|As the doors opened, tons (well, it seemed like it!) of confetti fell on the crowd.
|"It's now clear that New Orleans, at this moment, stands as a shining example of what resilience
and pluck, bulwarked only by the (sometimes very) reluctant insurance companies, can do to
craft a recovery. For all those commentators this year who've been giving New Orleans a
lecture on making do without federal aid, New Orleans is giving you the lecture right back. The
federal money appropriated to compensate homeowners for their losses due to the flood has
finally arrived in Baton Rouge...but, as of today, not a single check has yet been cut. For most
people, times are still very tough in the Big Easy. But, Friday afternoon, sitting on the Riverwalk,
with the train whistle playing counterpoint to the riverboat's calliope, and the faint sound of a
clarinet playing somewhere in the distance, it was very, very hard to think of any other place on
earth I'd rather be." -- Harry Shearer
|The Finishing Touches
|Saints' Reggie Bush signs autographs for the crowd.
|"I know a lot of people elsewhere are thinking that the money could've been used to build houses
for folks, but they don't realize what drives our economy. The two buildings that had to be put
online before any other are the Superdome and the Convention Center. Those two buildings are
vital to our convention business and our convention business is vital to our existence. Eighty
percent of the city took on between 2 - 20 feet of water for 3 weeks. That's what we're still working
on. It's a brutal process and it's made life very difficult. I think that's one reason that the
celebration is so amped up. We haven't had a heck of a lot to cheer about in the last year.
But in New Orleans, we are a very resilient people, and very celebratory and very
community-oriented folks, so I think that's what's got a lot to do with tonight. It's completely
exaggerated, of course. And I suppose most of America is wondering, "What the heck are they
doing in New Orleans?" But they've been asking that question about us for years now." -- Chris
|Are we ready for some football?
|"People left us for dead. We're making a statement to the
world: The Superdome is back. New Orleans is coming back."
-- Doug Thornton, Manager of the Superdome
|"At the end of the night, the Saints showed their appreciation by dedicating the game ball to the city
of New Orleans. Many of the residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region, who were
forever impacted by Hurricane Katrina's life-changing fury, may have lost their homes, but at least
on Monday night, they reclaimed their Superdome and their faith in a football team and in a city.
And renewed their strength to keep on keeping on." -- Ron Lavigne