Big Easy Endures a New Crisis

St. Louis Cathedral looms over Jackson Square in New Orleans.

hide captionA view of New Orleans' Jackson Square.

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New Orleans is an iconic American city, from the French Quarter to Lake Pontchartrain. It has seen war, fire and flood, and it has always been rebuilt.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

As he ordered an evacuation, the mayor of New Orleans told residents the city may never be the same. It's a city that has survived for centuries, despite repeated brushes with disaster. The first warning should have come in 1718, shortly after New Orleans was settled by the French. Its founder wrote home optimistically to say that the ground he had chosen was good, except for the borders which are drowned by floods.

When it wasn't going underwater, New Orleans was on fire. The historian, Herbert Asbury, reports that it burned twice in the late 1700s. But the city has always been rebuilt. New Orleans went on to become the destination of a young flatboat crewman named Abraham Lincoln. It was the birthplace of Louis Armstrong who spent some of his early years in a New Orleans' orphanage. It was an inspiration to the writers William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, among many others, and it remains a city that some people will not leave.

The owner of a French Quarter bar called Molly's told us that his family has always kept the place open, and they will continue serving Irish coffee.

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