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N.O. residents reflect on Katrina, future

Scarborough talks with Vogue writer Reed and Historian Brinkley
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With many around the country outraged at the response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough spoke with two New Orleans residents on Thursday to get their thoughts on the disaster and the future of their city.

Julia Reed, a resident of New Orleans and writer for 'Vogue' magazine and Presidential Historian Douglas Brinkley, who is a professor at Tulane University, discussed the situation.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Julia, You wrote an article called "Hope in Ruins."  If you can, reflect for us about the damage and the devastation that has really just decimated your hometown. 

JULIA REED, "VOGUE":  Well, you know, after the first gruesome week, where we got just wave after wave of bad news, from the hurricane and then the flood and then the looting -- and now I am sitting here terrified that my house is going to burn down, having dodged every other bullet. 

But, you know, instead of reflecting on the ruins, I think I have talked to so many people today that are more hopeful than I have heard them, you know, since all this happened.  I mean, you know, for all the gruesome, tragic nature of what we have seen and what we are going to unearth, there's still, so much of the city is left standing, I mean, all the historic parts, the French Quarter, the Garden District, you know, where I live, where Doug lives -- I hope, for Doug's sake.

You know, I am already getting e-mails from restaurateurs saying, yes, we can't wait to get back in.  Paul Prudhomme started cooking today for people.  Another chef I know has been running around on a boat -- he's a Gulf War veteran -- taking pinto beans to people still stranded in their houses. 

You know, I really do think that people are already getting gung-ho, And (that's) the only way to look at this now. I mean, I am glad to hear (La. Lt. Governor) Mitch Landrieu saying that they are going to cool the blame game.  Just for like a week would be refreshing.  The only way to look at this now is an opportunity to rebuild the city.  I mean, the city for a long time has been completely dysfunctional. 

You know, we are talking about a breakdown in government services.  If you live in New Orleans, you don't have any government services. 

And if you live in New Orleans, you know that the social order could break down any minute.  So, those realities are always with you, hurricane or not.  You are just seeing them writ large now.  So, it's a good time to take some stock, I think. 

SCARBOROUGH:  Doug Brinkley, you are out in Houston right now.  Obviously, you have been reviewing the situation out there, also back in New Orleans.  Talk about what you saw in New Orleans and talk about the breakdown of the relief efforts on all levels. 

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY:  Well, I have been spending quite a few days in New Orleans.
And I just want to say one thing that needs to be done is the -- we were talking about historic districts, the Garden District, the French Quarter -- but the Port of New Orleans is what makes New Orleans so great, and the port needs to be opened in a very fulsome way.  The Mississippi River did not flood over in New Orleans.  The levee is there.  And it's a place to get people and goods into the city.

When you shut the port off, you are kind of limiting access.  And I think one of the tragedies not focused on enough is why it took so long for so much relief to come to New Orleans.  And one of the answers is, from the south, people couldn't come because it's the Gulf of Mexico.  From the east, you had Mississippi and people couldn't get through.  So, a lot of goods were coming through from the west.

And a lot of them, when the trucks with supplies came, they ended up staying in Jefferson Parish and not making it to Orleans Parish.  I am ready for the new New Orleans that Julia is talking about, but I think we have got another week or two of the grim present ... We have got to-I think that we are in a dire situation.  I think the public health crisis has yet to begin.  I think that you are going to get all sorts of illnesses, which are just beginning, from cholera and other problems.  And I think that we don't have the stations there.  There's not the first aid set up.  You can't get them.

You can go into the water.  And just seeing today, if you just came into New Orleans, hopped in a boat, you can go find floating corpses.  I know it's hard to gather them, but the public health crisis is going to increase if we don't get more and more help in gathering the dead and saving the 10,000 or so people that are still in the city.