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Katrina Home Bush Visited Still Stands Empty

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Katrina Home Bush Visited Still Stands Empty

Katrina & Beyond

Katrina Home Bush Visited Still Stands Empty

Katrina Home Bush Visited Still Stands Empty

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5657431/5660056" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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President Bush smiles alongside Ethel Williams during a visit in April to her hurricane-damaged home in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Volunteers helped tear out damaged walls and floors that day, but little rebuilding work has occurred since. Eric Draper hide caption

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Eric Draper

President Bush smiles alongside Ethel Williams during a visit in April to her hurricane-damaged home in the Upper Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Volunteers helped tear out damaged walls and floors that day, but little rebuilding work has occurred since.

Eric Draper

Williams has owned her house on Pauline Street since 1965. Today, it still lacks walls and ceilings. The only room that's easily identifiable is the bathroom, because the toilet and bath tub are still sitting there. Muthoni Muturi, NPR hide caption

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Muthoni Muturi, NPR

Williams has owned her house on Pauline Street since 1965. Today, it still lacks walls and ceilings. The only room that's easily identifiable is the bathroom, because the toilet and bath tub are still sitting there.

Muthoni Muturi, NPR

In the archives of the White House Web site is an item from April 27 headlined: "President Visits Damaged Home in New Orleans, Louisiana." The pictures show President Bush with 74-year-old Ethel Williams.

She's a resident of the Upper Ninth Ward whose home had to be totally gutted after the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina receded. President Bush stood with Williams that day and said she'd get help rebuilding her life.

"We've got a strategy to help the good folks down here rebuild," the president said that day. "Part of it has to do with funding; part of it has to do with housing; and a lot of it has to do with encouraging volunteers from around the United States to come down and help people like Mrs. Williams. So we're proud to be here with you, Mrs. Williams, and God bless you."

That was a big day for Williams. Volunteers from Catholic Charities showed up in the morning and cleared out her house. Everything was taken, even the walls and the flooring. Then, with just a half-hour of warning, the president of the United States arrived.

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But since that day, not much has happened. Williams' house has stood gutted, just as it was when the president left.

Mrs. Williams has been living with her daughter in a part of the city across the Mississippi River.

"I thought I'd be in my house by now," Williams said recently.

Williams did get some initial help from FEMA. And the White House says she's in line to get federal rebuilding money that will be allocated by the state. But that may take a while.

Williams says her memory of the day is a blur, but she feels the president left a different impression — that her house could be totally rebuilt within a few months.

Still, Williams says she's not angry at anyone — especially not the president. She never voted for Mr. Bush, but she says she really felt a connection with him that day in April. She now calls the president a friend.

She's confident that President Bush will make sure things work out: "You can't get me to say he won't, because he will. Watch."

"What's your name? I'm gonna call you. I'm gonna prove it to you. Before you leave, let me know how to get in touch with you. I'm gonna call you."