We just spent the weekend in New Orleans visiting family and friends. A few things stood out:
1) New Orleans has not recovered much since the last time I was there in October 2005. When I was there to pick up our stuff, I remember a feeling in the survivors that they were going to make things happen, that they were going to turn this city around. Now people are faced with the lack of progress and seem tired. Some people who were pretty sure about staying are leaving as well.
2) Disasters happen to us collectively, but recovery happens individually. That is, the storm and subsequent damage happened to everyone in New Orleans, but how people rebuild their lives is very individual. This was illustrated by the number of houses we saw in Lakeview that were pretty well rebuilt standing right next to houses that seemed not to have been touched since the storm. Each of the millions of people affected by Katrina has a story, and none is exactly the same as any other.
3) As soon as we got off the plane, we started having Katrina conversations. We did not stop having conversations about Katrina until we were on the plane home to Philadelphia. This is alive and real for the city of New Orleans. Sadly, but realistically, Katrina was over for the people of Philadelphia about 3 weeks after the storm.
It was so very good to see my family and our friends. Nothing could change that. We even got to have a party with the people we evacuated with (see How We Evacuated from Hurricane Katrina). It was also devestating to drive through Lakeview and see how less than 1% of the houses are inhabited.