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Desolation in the Upper Ninth Ward

NBC's Brian Williams talks with Upper Ninth Ward homeowner A.J.. Perkins, who had a lot to say about Katrina, the recovery, the lessons and what he lost.

Monday night we were in the Ninth Ward section of New Orleans. As neighborhoods in that city go, it has the highest percentage of African-American home ownership. It is a sad and desolate place these days.

We met a homeowner named A.J. Perkins, who, we quickly learned, had a lot to say about Katrina, the recovery, the lessons and what he lost.

A.J. Perkins: There's so much red tape that they're sending you to, and it's a back-and-forth situation. One day they're talking about tearing it down or taking it over or whatever. The next day they say you can go ahead and do it. One day they say you need work permits, and the next day they say you don't need work permits. That's confusing. You in limbo, you don't know what to do.

Brian Williams: Well, how do you feel about the future of your city?  

Perkins: First of all, it will never be the same again. It will never be the same again. It's people that I spoke with the morning I evacuated that I will never, ever, right in this neighborhood -- that I will never, ever see again. That's just how disfigured this city is now.

Williams: Is there a deep lesson you learned in Katrina? 

Perkins: We [are] right here in New Orleans in the United States, and we had to go through stuff like this. A great deal of people wouldn't have lost their lives if people would have thought of everybody as one. I'm just as important as you are.

It's now been almost five months since Katrina blew and the levees gave way. And the thing you hear over and over in parts of New Orleans is: It's as if it happened yesterday. In some neighborhoods, nothing has been touched. The waterline marks each house, along with the spray paint from rescue crews. Cars sit where they were parked during the storm. Police admit it's possible there are still bodies buried there. There's no power, no water, no pets — and no people. No visible relief, even after so many Americans have given so much to those with nothing left.