What It Means to Miss New Orleans

New Orleans defense attorney Lauren McKnight has lived in three different cities since Hurricane Katrina hit. She's anxious to move back into the city that she loves and where she grew up, and shares her personal story.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Death and life reside in the same house. While bodies are being recovered, Louisiana is rebuilding. One New Orleans resident says she's excited about the town's comeback.

Ms. LAUREN McKNIGHT (Defense Attorney, New Orleans): My name's Lauren McKnight. I'm a defense attorney in New Orleans and since the storm, I have lived in three different cities and in three different places. When I leave home--I live on Napoleon now, and it looks like maybe a bad storm came through and it's Mardi Gras. They've cleaned up a lot of the debris immediately around the house. The further down you go towards South Claiborne, you see refrigerators and washers and dryers, and you see drywall outside. But you see more and more signs of life coming, and you see people moving back into the area and you see the debris trucks picking it all up, you can kind of convince yourself that the storm was bad but it's not that bad. You can convince yourself that it's--you know, your life is returning to normal. And when you go home at night, it's so quiet. That was the one thing that was hard to adjust to, having lived on St. Charles, was the streetcar and the traffic and all the noise and the hustle and bustle of the city, and when I moved back, it was so quiet, and I wasn't used to the absence of noise.

The places where I lived like Uptown and then in downtown and Algiers, in those areas, you can easily delude yourself and pretend that everything's fine. But in the areas that were harder hit, with more standing water and with the flooding, you see it, and it's still--the smell is incredible. You have your air conditioner on or you have to roll your windows up, and you start sneezing and coughing because there's still so much dust and the stench is so strong. I mean, it literally smells like hot trash, or just hot fresh manure. It's staggering.

I'm moving on Friday into my new apartment. Hopefully my old apartment will be ready in six months and I can go back home. I'm trying to establish a new routine, whether it's to get up and get to work at 8 and work till 8 because I don't have cable or landline telephone because they can't install new services until they get the old ones back online. I take it day by day.

More and more places in the city are opening up, more and more museums and galleries, so I'm trying to patronize as many places in the city so they can get my tax revenue. I try to make sure that I buy gas in Orleans Parish because I know that's the only--you know, they're only getting sales tax revenue. I try to buy my groceries and everything else so that I contribute to my economy, to help rebuild my city.

CHIDEYA: That was New Orleans resident Lauren McKnight.

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