The Garden District, the French Quarter, the Superdome... much of New Orleans has moved beyond recovery and has re-achieved normalcy. And the people of New Orleans want you to know that.
But they also want you to know that their hearts are broken. That the Katrina diaspora has broken up families and communities. And that people all over the country are trying to figure out how to get back home to New Orleans.
Mayor Nagin got re-elected and he's got his hands full. Wrecked infrastructures, debris to be cleared, buildings to be gutted, decisions to be made about who will and will not be supported in their desire to rebuild.
What's it like here? It's haunted. Not just by the people who died – over 1570 people in Louisiana alone – but by the lasting presence of the physical evidence of what people here simply call "the devastation."
Katrina made landfall on August 28th, 2005. I took these pictures in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward today, September 9th, 2006. There are no signs of life in the Lower Ninth Ward. Just block after block like this:
These homes were mostly uninsured. Their owners couldn't get FEMA trailers because there's no power or water here. So those folks are in Houston or Baton Rouge or crammed into some tiny space wearing out the welcome of their friends whose houses survived the storm. Some of them will decide not to come back. Some of them will come back no matter what. And all of them are hurting.