They opened up the building and we streamed through the turnstiles, tickets and hats and signs in hand. We bought Dome Foam, personal pizzas, and peanuts.
So much of that was similar to other days in this place, as the Saints played their first home game of the 2006 NFL season. But, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, nothing — of course — was the same.
"There is a house, in New Orleans," Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong started to sing, "… they call the Superdome …"
The group of fans around me, at the sound of this deft reworking, surged out of their seats – like a hymn had raised them. I was, already, overwhelmed.
Then the chorus began, from a stage as small as the opening coin tossed in the middle of that football field, and it filled every part of this place. It embraced us all: THE SAINTS ARE COMING.
Rebirth, Bono said, almost in prayer, during the solo. And there was a frenzy of emotion, as memory mixed with hope for the very first time.
This was the beginning of something, of another New Orleans and of a different kind of New Orleans Saints. Something so many people had thought, what I thought, had been lost.
There's a context to this. Bono, the night before, had called in the staff at the legendary Antoine's restaurant, on their day off, and paid each and every one of them a rich stipend just to reopen the place. New Orleans was a light burning inside him.
"I am an American!" he cried, back in the Superdome, and what followed was the kind of unity of spirit that only happens at sports events, churches and scary movies. We all believed in something, right then.
Eventually, the song dissolved into a verse from U2's "Beautiful Day," which took on a shattering new context, six years after its release:
- After the flood all the colors came out …
It was a beautiful day
Don't let it get away
A football game came next, yet it was no deflating second act. There was a punt blocked, which turned into a recovery for a touchdown, and then an eventual win over a hated rival. Some think that victory marked the beginning of a franchise-best march all the way to the NFC Championship Game – this dare-to-dream season that ended just last Sunday with a loss at Chicago.
But first, there were tears on that Monday night. All around. As the bands gathered their things, fans turned to each other, like long-lost classmates, and embraced. This may also have been, more importantly, the moment when New Orleans actually began again.
Later, I bought the greatest hits package from U2 with a studio version of this song. I don't listen to it much. I never want to let go of the soaring emotions of that night, never want the edges dulled from repetition.
I won't let it get away.
Pico's note: This article was written by my blogmate Nick Deriso.