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New Orleans Faithful Look to City's Rebirth

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New Orleans Faithful Look to City's Rebirth

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New Orleans Faithful Look to City's Rebirth

New Orleans Faithful Look to City's Rebirth

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A homeless man who stayed in New Orleans throughout Hurricane Katrina says he saw God in the storm... and that the city will rise again. And a famous restaurateur says he wants to start serving meals by tomorrow. They are just two survivors who hope for their city's rebirth in the wake of the deadly storm.


Meanwhile, back in New Orleans, recovery efforts continue. Over the weekend utility crews repaired power lines, police searched for bodies, and soldiers expanded their patrols into the parts of town that are drying. Yesterday at least some of the thousands of workers took time to look for a deeper meaning. NPR's Martin Kaste reports from New Orleans.

Pastor GEORGE YARGIN(ph): (Singing) Amazing grace, how...

MARTIN KASTE reporting:

On Sunday morning a couple of Baptist volunteer ministers from Texas climb up into the bed of a black pickup truck and hold an impromptu memorial service. Preaching to the rescue workers through a bullhorn, Pastor George Yargin interprets the Katrina disaster as a source of pride.

Pastor YARGIN: In the midst of this destruction, you make us proud. God bless you, gentlemen. God bless America. And may the love of Jesus Christ bear up your hearts, may it bear up your souls. And may God make this place everything that he would have it be.

KASTE: For a different take on the spiritual meaning of Katrina, you need to walk down Canal Street a few hundred feet to where an elderly man, wearing a chain of three wooden crosses, is picking up litter. Robert Rogers(ph) was born and raised here, and he rode out the storm in his apartment, an experience he says filled him with what he calls a good kind of fear.

Mr. ROBERT ROGERS: I felt the presence of God. I felt the presence of a power stronger than man, you know--something else, you know. It's not just wind. It's something that controls it, you know? It really is. You know, I mean, we calculate everything, but some things we can't capture. You can't capture the meaning of it, you know?

KASTE: Rogers shares with the Texas preachers a sense that God meant some good to come out of this destruction.

Mr. ROGERS: We was in trouble in the city before this happened. The city was falling apart. We had a big homeless rate, you understand? It was getting so that nobody--it was getting kind of uncontrollable. In a way, I'm glad God did this. He whipped us because man couldn't turn this city around, but God done turned it around. Now we're going to build a new city.

KASTE: And for those who practice New Orleans' unofficial religion, the faith in good cooking, there is another small sign of hope, the appearance on Sunday of Paul Prudhomme, one of New Orleans' most famous chefs, weaving amongst the soldiers on his electric scooter.

Mr. PAUL PRUDHOMME (Chef): Thank you so much, sir. God bless you, sir.

Unidentified Man: Thank you now. It's been a pleasure.

KASTE: Prudhomme has come into New Orleans to reopen his restaurant in the French Quarter, showing just how easy it is for prominent residents to re-enter this city despite the official lock-down. He's asking for special permission to stay here and cook real food for the recovery workers, something he says he and his crew can start doing in a matter of days.

Mr. PRUDHOMME: Our job is feeding people, and that's--we're restless if we can't do it.

KASTE: And, in fact, Prudhomme's famous K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen on Charter Street appears to have survived the storm in good condition. The last menu is still posted outside. The bill of fare for Saturday, August 27th, promised, among other dishes, shrimp etouffe, chicken andouille gumbo and Charter Street gumbo, all reminders of just how much there still is to hope for here in New Orleans. Martin Kaste, NPR News, in the French Quarter.

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. There's more coming on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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