'Few People Imagined How Bad It Still Would Be Now'

A dispatch from Noah Adams, blogging from the Gulf Coast:

Friday morning in New Orleans, a city that must now be letting out a long sigh as the anniversary week closes. I've heard that before Katrina, people were fond of "Friday Lunch." A long, slow sort of formal lunch where people lingered, planned for the weekend or finalized a deal. And significant food — not red beans and rice, which, as we've learned, is for Monday washday, when you'd cook up the leftovers.

It was Friday Lunch before the storm that, people say, may have muted concerns about another hurricane coming, the business week pretty much ending by noon, attentions turned elsewhere.

We — outsiders — have learned about New Orleans over this past year and find it fascinating to go deeper into the story of the city's beginnings and present-day culture.

At NPR, we've been helped by colleagues who grew up here (and who know where to get the best salt-baked crab). Gwen Thompkins, editor of Weekend Edition Saturday for many years, was a source and advisor and did her own great series about the Lakeview neighborhood. And All Things Considered editor Susan Feeney guided that program's coverage, drawing on her knowledge of the city. Susan worked for the Times-Picayune in the 1980s; following Katrina, she co-founded the relief fund Friends of the Times-Picayune to raise money for the paper's staff. This week, Susan wrote about the current state of mind in New Orleans for The Huffington Post. She describes the futile and valiant efforts of her friend, Times-Picayune writer Mark Schleifstein, cutting the grass outside his flood-ruined home. (I know Mark by name because of the new book he co-authored: Path of Destruction: The Devastation of New Orleans and the Coming Age of Superstorms. )

Susan says, "as dark as it was when the city filled with water and corpses floated in the streets, few people imagined then how bad it still would be now."

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