Photographs and text by Alan Chin / facingchange.org for Newsweek.com
Five years feels like a long time, and many buildings have been rebuilt and a lot people have returned to the Gulf Coast devastated by Katrina. But many have not come home, and they may never. Some neighborhoods have never looked better; other areas are returning to nature. There, the vegetation grew wild and high after the ruins were bulldozed away.
I arrived in 2005, four days after the levees broke, and in those first catastrophic days, thousands died and many tens of thousands more were displaced to seek refuge at the Superdome and the Convention Center. Almost the entire city was underwater, and the elevated highways were the only lifelines for access on the ground. Helicopters filled the sky, rescuing people off rooftops. The dead were everywhere.
Recovery has been hard and slow. New Orleans had already suffered from many social and economic problems, and the storm exacerbated some, despite the high hopes for a new beginning. But with its unique architecture, culture, and history, the people of this great American city continue their aspiration and their struggle.
This article is part of NEWSWEEK's series on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Click here for all of our coverage.