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New Orleans Still Recovering from Hurricane Katrina


On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the U.S. Gulf Coast causing widespread damage and devastating New Orleans. The powerful storm caused the levees to break flooding 80 percent of the city. Three years later, the so-called Crescent City continues to rebuild.

A 1947 film, New Orleans, featuring Louis Armstrong and Billy Holiday exemplifies the uniqueness and culture of one of America's oldest cities. Music is the city's heartbeat with the sound of jazz echoing down the city's streets.

New Orleans' annual Mardi Gras celebration is described by many as "America's greatest party."

But celebrations have been quieter since August of 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck. The disaster claimed more than 1,400 lives and caused billions of dollars in damage.

The federal government, as well as state and local officials, were widely criticized for being unprepared for the disaster, and failing to respond to thousands in need.

Three years later, some areas of New Orleans have changed little and life in New Orleans for many residents is far from normal.

On the third anniversary of the storm, New Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin struck an optimistic tone as the city continues its struggle to recover.

"This is a wonderful city," Nagin said. "The city is not just about the buildings, architecture, the food, the music. The city is about its people."

Raymond Thomas, field director for Katrina Corps, said that "volunteers have been the number one vital source in this entire enigma. They are the constant power. They are the constant denominator. They are the one unyielding aspect to any hope of a real recovery happening."

Since 2006, more than 3,600 volunteers from the non-profit organization Katrina Corps have helped reopen 25 schools, gutted 250 homes, and rebuilt 50.

Marshall Gochenour, Katrina Corps' worksite coordinator, believes that "slowly but surely we're trying to get everybody that can get back and wants to be back, back because it started, it's just nowhere near where it should be three years later, this community should not be so empty and so vacant."

Organizations like the Community Center of St. Bernard provide free food, clothing, and medical and legal resources to those in need.

Wary of another hurricane, many carry emotional scars as they contemplate their futures.

"I love this parish, and I love the people," one survivor said. "I was born and raised here my whole life, born and raised in New Orleans. But I can't put up with this it's too much mental stress.

Rehabilitating the city's devastated neighborhoods is expected to take years. Rebuilding the confidence of many of New Orleans' residents could take even longer.