A Day in the Life of New Orleans

The Rebirth Brass Band performs at the Maple Leaf Bar. Cheryl Gerber for NPR hide caption

Watch an audio slideshow on a day in the life of New Orleans.
itoggle caption Cheryl Gerber for NPR
Ronald Lewis i i

Ronald Lewis says he's ready to move back home in the Lower Ninth Ward, which was devastated by flooding after Katrina hit New Orleans. Cheryl Gerber for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Cheryl Gerber for NPR
Ronald Lewis

Ronald Lewis says he's ready to move back home in the Lower Ninth Ward, which was devastated by flooding after Katrina hit New Orleans.

Cheryl Gerber for NPR
Donald and Colleen Bordelon share an emotional moment, in their kitchen of their home. i i

Donald and Colleen Bordelon share an emotional moment in the kitchen of their home in St. Bernard Parish. Cheryl Gerber for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Cheryl Gerber for NPR
Donald and Colleen Bordelon share an emotional moment, in their kitchen of their home.

Donald and Colleen Bordelon share an emotional moment in the kitchen of their home in St. Bernard Parish.

Cheryl Gerber for NPR
Phil Farrow and his fiancee Sarah Shipman kiss. i i

Phil Farrow and his fiancee Sarah Shipman try a kiss on for size at a New Orleans tux shop. They're preparing to marry at St. Louis Cathedral. Cheryl Gerber for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Cheryl Gerber for NPR
Phil Farrow and his fiancee Sarah Shipman kiss.

Phil Farrow and his fiancee Sarah Shipman try a kiss on for size at a New Orleans tux shop. They're preparing to marry at St. Louis Cathedral.

Cheryl Gerber for NPR

It's been nearly a year since Hurricane Katrina dealt New Orleans a smashing blow. In the months after the storm hit, those city residents who stayed or came back were optimistic that life would begin to return to normal. But lately that hope has faded into the reality that a recovery will take a long, long time.

A 24-hour visit to New Orleans finds people in various stages of recovery.

In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the Rebirth Brass Band is playing to a full house at the Maple Leaf Bar, in a neighborhood that escaped the flooding.

Outside, a caterer who calls himself Bittles — Bittles with the Vittles — works the busy sidewalk, grilling meat that you can smell down the street. He works until closing time, then returns to his mother's house — the only remaining home in his extended family. He'll be sleeping on the hardwood floor.

Dawn reveals a city that moves to a different rhythm. Some workers hammer, and others demolish houses: one wrecked home fills three large trucks. From horizon to horizon, you see this city's uneven struggle to come back.

Neighborhood by neighborhood, street by street, every wrecked home has a story.

In the Lower Ninth Ward, Ronald Lewis is making plans to return to his home.

His house was so clogged with debris he could barely move in it, let alone move in. So Lewis grabbed every helping hand that reached his way.

Now volunteers are installing windows and making other repairs to his home. Architecture students redesigned his backyard museum, which is dedicated to New Orleans' black social clubs.

In neighboring St. Bernard Parish, Donald Bordelon refused to leave his house, even when water filled the first floor. He and his wife Colleen are still replacing wiring and walls. The view from their newly repaired roof reveals the wrecks of home after home whose owners will not come back.

Later in the day, we meet a young couple preparing to get married in the St. Louis Cathedral. Phil Farrow tries on the tuxedo that his fiancee Sarah Shipman chose. Katrina forced Shipman to flee the New Orleans area, though she hopes to return.

Others are losing that hope... like Maisha Margin, whom we reached by phone from Houston. She was also planning a wedding for this month, but it was put off indefinitely by the disaster.

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