Video: Still hurting in New Orleans

By Martin Savidge Correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/28/2006 8:03:54 PM ET 2006-08-29T00:03:54

President Bush returned Monday to mark the anniversary of the hurricane that still haunts his presidency.

Speaking in Mississippi, Bush said he remains committed to the Gulf Coast's recovery post-Katrina.

"But in every state hit by last year's storm it was the bravery of the local citizens that meant the difference between life and death," Bush said. "It was the bravery of the first responders on the scenes, I'm here to thank you all for showing the country how to respond to a national disaster."

But in some places recovery still seems a long way off. One year after Hurricane Katrina, large areas of New Orleans are still uninhabited and uninhabitable.

George Albert is among those who've returned. He still can't do what many of us think nothing of — turn on a light or a tap in his Ninth Ward home —  little progress in the 10 months since we watched him hurry home after Katrina. Without electricity or water he still can't get a FEMA trailer.

"Oh, that's real frustrating, because just across the street you see our neighbors with their trailers and they got power," Albert says.

According to the local power company, electricity is available to all but six blocks of New Orleans.

Visit the French Quarter these days and you could stay in a great hotel, eat a great meal, even ride the streets in a carriage, and never know there were problems.

But there are.

Last December Willis Wesley was the first one back in his New Orleans East neighborhood. Today he's rebuilt, has electricity and water, but he's still without neighbors.

"I still sit around and look around and say, 'You know, I got to be crazy,'" Wesley says. "Everything look dead. It was just like a nuclear war or something and they bombed everything."

Only half of New Orleans schools have reopened. Only 60 percent of the city's businesses are back, and only three of New Orleans' 10 hospitals are functioning.

Wesley has no pharmacy, few grocery stores, his doctor's more than and hour and 20 minutes away, and he drives 6 miles just to get his nephew to school.

"I set around wondering how many years it's going to be before this city comes back," Wesley says.

Statistics are one measure, as is the mental health hotline. The anniversary is rekindling emotions, so a local hotline was set up to help. And people are calling.

One year after Katrina, perhaps the biggest repair job is handled by a human voice.

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