In New Orleans, a Memorial Pause for Workers

Relief workers and citizens took time out Sunday for a memorial service honoring the victims of Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 attacks.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.

The recovery effort in New Orleans has settled into something of a rhythm now, enough so that rescue workers could take time out today for a brief moment of science to honor those who died as a result of Hurricane Katrina as well as the September 11th attacks. Baptist Minister Norman Flowers led this impromptu memorial service on Canal Street.

Reverend NORMAN FLOWERS: Father, may this silence bring us peace, and may you honor the fallen; take them home. We pray that in Jesus' name. Amen. This is Louisiana.

(Soundbite of sirens; horns honking)

ELLIOTT: Canal Street has become something of a center stage for the disaster recovery effort. It's where reporters camp out and where rescue commanders give briefings. NPR's Martin Kaste is there now.

Hi, Martin.

MARTIN KASTE reporting:

Hi, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: Can you tell us what's going on there?

KASTE: Well, Canal Street--I'll paint the picture for you. It's probably the most surreal place I've ever been. If people know New Orleans, they'll remember it as the main thoroughfare that divides the French Quarter from the Business District. And now post-hurricane, it's kind of a shuttered main drag full of police and other responders; media camped out, as you said. You have a lot of out-of-state police sort of lingering, waiting for some sort of orders to be deployed. We saw some police yesterday from Ohio playing cards. It's a very strange place.

And a lot of the action here happens on the front steps of Harrah's casino, the centerpiece of the tourism business here in New Orleans. And that's where a lot of the people who have come to New Orleans to be seen, they go there to be seen.

ELLIOTT: What kind of people are coming through?

KASTE: Well, we've seen Kirstie Alley, Dr. Phil. It's the kind of place where if you want to be part of New Orleans' aftermath, you come here to be part of it, I guess.

ELLIOTT: I'm curious, are there locals anywhere to be seen?

KASTE: The few New Orleanians who are still in the city often come through here. I just talked to a gentleman who's sweeping up the streets. He says FEMA's paying him something to do that. He's a man who's lived here all his life, but it's mainly occupied territory, occupied by people not from here.

ELLIOTT: NPR's Martin Kaste in New Orleans. Thank you, Martin.

KASTE: You're welcome, Debbie.

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