New Orleans Readies for a Somber Anniversary

New Orleans is preparing prayer vigils and bell-ringings, academic conferences and book signings, art and photo exhibits and many more events to mark next week's anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The anniversary has sparked conflicting emotions among residents about the pace of rebuilding and where to lay blame.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY, I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

I'm Madeleine Brand. In New Orleans, there will be prayer vigils and bell ringings, academic conferences and book signings, art and photo exhibitions. Next week's anniversary of Hurricane Katrina will be commemorated all over the city. NPR's Molly Peterson has a preview.

MOLLY PETERSON reporting:

New Orleans residents still have a few days to hunker down for the coming emotional storm. Like sousaphone player Kirk Joseph.

Mr. KIRK JOSEPH (New Orleans Sousaphone Player): I feel kind of good. Seeing everybody else is crying, too.

(Soundbite of music)

PETERSON: The funk will go on. Joseph's backyard group has a gig tonight, but he says you won't hear him play the song Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans? Lately, it makes him burst out in tears. City dwellers speak of gathering informally this week - neighborhood barbeques, dinner with family and friends. The people here are still torn between wanting a ritual to remember Katrina by and just wanting it all to go away. On Canal Street, a slight woman - an uptown resident named Joanne - walks out of a bar. Her eyes darken behind her glasses and she shakes her head quickly. No, she says. She will not commemorate the storm. New Orleans needs to move forward.

JOANNE (New Orleans Resident): We just want to get through this season. If we get through this season - all they did was build the levies back to what they were, which was inefficient and didn't work. So it's just - if we can get through without a hurricane, then everything will be fine. Maybe.

PETERSON: Joanne says outside of the Gulf, it seems everyone has stopped paying attention.

JOANNE: I don't feel like we're part of the United States anymore.

PETERSON: Maybe she says the anniversary events will help Americans remember that people are still here. Molly Peterson, NPR News New Orleans.

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