And in the short time I had, I tried to see as much as possible. I walked up and down the streets of the French Quarter. I paid my respects at the graves of Marie Laveau and Gram Parsons. I ate crawfish etouffee and played the washboard with a Cajun band.
And I saw plenty of businesses boarded up with “For Lease” signs in the window, not to mention rows of houses with large X’s painted on the side. They were painted there by the rescue teams who went door to door after Katrina passed through, looking for survivors of the storms or bodies of people who didn’t get out in time. According to a few of the people that I interviewed, the 9th Ward today is in many ways still in the same shape as it was three years ago when the floodwaters finally receded.
What happened to the plans to rebuild New Orleans? As I’m writing this, Tropical Storm Gustav is aiming right for Louisiana, and nobody knows for sure if the rebuilt levees are going to hold this time either. I can’t believe that after three years to fix what Katrina had destroyed, the best we can do is cross our fingers that the levees are stronger and Gustav is weaker.

I know the costs would be astronomical, and the economy’s down and we have wars to fight elsewhere that are sucking up the cash. But wouldn’t it be something special, something inherently American, to have President McCain or President Obama standing in front of a row of new houses in the lower 9th Ward, talking about how we took care of our own and made the city of New Orleans whole again? I think there’s even a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner lying around that we can use just for the occasion.