As CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports,
geography has blessed it and cursed it and created a saucy, sweaty, haughty and naughty mixture that's equal parts triumph and tragedy.
Even now, while people demand to know why it took so long for help to arrive, how it came to this, a simple sound rang out: the sound of the trumpet.
Anyone who knows New Orleans hopes the man playing this trumpet is a metaphor. Music has always been part of this city's lifeblood.
New Orleans invented jazz, and seeing it played, after everything, seemed like a pleasant glimpse of a familiar past and maybe just the sound of things to come.
It's hard to remember over the past week and a day, but there have been other moments when the future of the city must have seemed in doubt.
Hurricanes first destroyed it just after a French explorer created it.
Since it was founded, New Orleans has been fought in and fought over by the French and the Spanish and the British and the Americans, both Confederate and Union.
The city's been hit with pestilence and plague and with other floods from other hurricanes, like Betsy in 1965. But at the crossroads of the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico, the city kept jumping, the people kept coming.
There was usually money to be made, always music to be made.
New Orleans got it's nickname, "The Big Easy," because life was so easy for musicians like Mahalia Jackson and Louis Armstrong.
The city had it's own character and it's own characters.
It's hard to see how the city can go on. Even a deputy police chief said,
"This city has been destroyed."
The streets are empty, save for corpses and ghosts of good times rolling.
But there is still almost 400 years of history and tradition and spirit here.
It may be a city of the dead, but it's not yet a dead city.