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Hurricane Katrina Survivor Reflects On Year Four
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Hurricane Katrina Survivor Reflects On Year Four
Hurricane Katrina Survivor Reflects On Year Four
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I'm Jennifer Ludden, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Coming up, everyone seems to be on Twitter, including star athletes like Shaquille O'Neal, Lance Armstrong and Chad Ochocinco. We'll talk about the tweet revolution in sports just ahead.

But first, four years ago today, Hurricane Katrina was heading toward the city of New Orleans. Within hours of the storm hitting, 80 percent of the Crescent City was flooded, and 400,000 people were left homeless.

For two years now, TELL ME MORE has closely followed the post-Katrina life of one New Orleans resident, Gralen B. Banks. Banks was one of many from New Orleans' Ninth Ward who lost their home and moved into a government trailer, something he told us about in August, 2007.

Mr. GRALEN BANKS: Just let me say that I am a lot better off than a whole lot of folks because at least my trailer is in my driveway. I'm next to my house, which is gutted. I'm not in a FEMA trailer park, and thank God, I'm still in my hometown of New Orleans. So I could complain, but I won't.

LUDDEN: While his family left town, Banks waited for the insurance money to fix his home. He went through rounds of litigation for a process that seemed endless, but the fourth-generation New Orleans native remained fiercely loyal to the city he loves and found inspiration and comfort in its music.

Mr. BANKS: I mean, you watch Kerman and Trombone Shorty and Branford Marsalis and those guys, and you saw that energy, and you heard that music, and you realized that there is nowhere else on this beautiful third rock from the sun where you're going to find that music. That is the one thing that I just cannot disconnect myself from.

So no, the FEMA trailer is not the best of abodes at this point, but thank God, he woke me up this morning, and we're going to keep on struggling.

LUDDEN: In 2008, Gralen Banks moved his family out of the trailer and into a friend's home, but three months later, he was forced out again, this time by Hurricane Gustav. Banks left for Baton Rouge, taking only what was most important to him.

Mr. BANKS: Photographs. It's the one thing that you cannot replace, that and life. I don't care how much money you have or how much insurance, you cannot possibly get backā€¦ Stuff doesn't mean much. Stuff really, really doesn't mean much. It's the few things that count that you really have to have with you.

LUDDEN: Now, four years later and still not in his own home, Banks says he remains optimistic about the city's recovery.

Mr. BANKS: It's still alive and well. It's still strong. It's still vital, and that is a continuing high point. That is the yin to the yang of all the rest of that madness.

LUDDEN: As he looks back on life these past four years, Banks says what he misses most is his father, who died last year. But his favorite possession lost to Katrina: A pair of Salvatore Ferragamo shoes.

Mr. BANKS: Anytime I wore these shoes, I got compliments from men and women. They were like a cognac brown, a classic, beautiful pair of shoes. When I left them, they looked like that, and the next time I saw them, they had fur growing on them. They were mold infested in my house with the water and the whole nine yards, and if could get those pair of shoes back, I'd be one pretty happy camper, I tell you.

LUDDEN: New Orleans resident Gralen B. Banks. In coming days, groups around the city are staging events to mark the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

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