Calm After Storm: Renewal Is Slow

Ben Ardoin takes a rest after searching through the rubble of his friend Dennis Coughlin's condo, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2005, in Slidell, LA. AP

Exactly six weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck the Louisiana coast, neighborhoods remain in shambles and devastation is everywhere.

There are signs of recovery, reports The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith, but too few to make a major difference. In Slidell, La., water and sewer service are back and the power is starting to return to many neighborhoods.

Crews are picking up 70,000 to 80,000 cubic yards of debris every day but officials estimate some 6 million yards of cubic debris will need to be cleared before life really returns to normal.

"We've got most of the schools up and operational," says Kevin Davis, president of St. Tammany Parish, just outside of New Orleans. "One school early in the morning and then in the afternoon."

He says 104,000 hurricane victims have been registered from his parish alone and, of those, 40,000 could qualify for temporary housing. Some 369 trailers have been placed at individual homes, but Davis estimates the parish will need 23,000 temporary homes.

"Now comes the process of hooking them up," Davis says of the trailers already in place. "They will be doing that. They're gearing up, trying to work hard now to get that done. It's massive."

Larry Hess, fire chief of St. Tammany Parish, expects it will be years before rebuilding is finished. Pointing to a destroyed home, he says, "There are still buildings that look like this in Florida and that was last year. So it's pretty difficult to predict when buildings like this will no longer be part of the landscape of St. Tammany and Slidell."

And it's not just drywall, furniture and carpeting that people have lost, he says. "For instance, we have a firefighter on our fire department, he and his wife lost their daughter. All of the photographs of that child were destroyed in the flood. And those are on the curb. So it's the lives of people that are out there, too."

Work continues on the I-10 bridge across Lake Pontchartrain. Crews are about halfway through the project and officials say it will be at least 20 days before it is open to traffic.

One family in Slidell was evacuated from St. Bernard's Parish, another hard-hit area just southeast of New Orleans. Four generations are living under the same roof in a house that belongs to a friend of a friend of a friend. Their own homes were destroyed by the storm or despoiled by the oil and water and mud that followed. What is the hardest part of their life in exile?

"Just the — everybody being together and getting on each others' nerves a little bit," says Gasper Giglio. "Like kids, they'll do something and just being together. You shouldn't do that, you should do that. Four kids, three of them, don't do it. Good kids and they were always good kids. But we're all at a breaking point and we just holler at them when we shouldn't."

Everything is make-do. Meals are eaten on the fly. While the kids are in school, the adults wrestle with insurance companies and FEMA. They are frustrated but thankful to be alive.

What's left of their former lives is sorted out and drying on a dining room table — papers, photographs that form a family archive and images of better times.

Holding a photograph, grandmother Lottie Giglio says, "It means more than the material things, just to have this. So I get really emotional when I — you know …"

New Orleans's Ninth Ward got the brunt of the destruction. Even so, people are anxious to go back in, even if not to stay. CBS News correspondent Trish Regan reports that some residents of the lower Ninth Ward waited in line for a chance to finally see their home. When they got across the bridge, destruction was all they found.

Back for the first time since she fled Katrina six weeks ago, Deidadra Ellis found her home — the house where she had lived in since she was a little girl, the place she had raised her children — in pieces.

Standing amid the rubble, she points and says, "the rest of my house is across the street." The house was uprooted from its foundation and turned into a pile of rubble. It's a familiar sight on every block, house after house destroyed.

"The challenge right now, " says Adm. Thad Allen, who is heading the FEMA operation, "is the folks who were evacuated from here. What do we do with them?"

He's trying to let some New Orleans residents know it may not be safe to move home, especially in places in the Ninth Ward.

"It's really uninhabitable right now," he says, "and it's probably going to be years before they get it cleaned up and restore any type of structure to the place."

But Charmaine Marchand says she's determined to make the Ninth Ward a neighborhood again.

"These are people that I actually know and love, that, you know, are gonna come back," she says. "They said they're coming back."

FEMA is offering housing help in the form of apartments, trailers and hotels throughout the country, and many hurricane victims say they don't want to live anywhere else. They want to come home to New Orleans and they want to rebuild it.
  • Mary-Jayne McKay

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