It's been exactly two years since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, and there are many ways to measure progress -- from cold, hard stats to the anecdotal stories you hear on the ground. But there are several hopeful signs for the people who still call this area home.
This year, 446,000 people live in the six lower coastal Mississippi counties worst hit by Katrina. That's just 12,000 less than before Katrina. But the signs of struggle are just as clear.
The devastation is easier to see when viewing the 80 miles of coastline in ruin from the air.
"We're like the hand of God that wiped the Earth clean," observed Biloxi Sun Herald publisher Ricky Matthews from the perspective of a helicopter.
Katrina destroyed 70,000 homes, just 10 percent of which have been rebuilt. Seventeen thousand temporary trailers, half the number originally provided by FEMA, are still in use.
Smaller towns are banding together, still needing help, but really pulling themselves up.
Despite the obstacles, workers are returning. Eleven of Mississippi's 13 casinos are back, employing 18,000 people -- 1,000 more than they did pre-Katrina. And the population on the Gulf Coast is up to 98 percent of what it was two years ago.
Many of the smaller, hardest hit communities still rely on volunteers to get by, and they need more doctors and nurses. In Pass Christian, Miss., hometown of "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts, even the police and fire department still work out of temporary buildings, a reminder of how much needs to be done.
But among these special Gulf Coast residents the rebuilding spirit is still here.
"The most important thing we learned from Katrina was that buildings don't make a community, people do. Once you understand that, leaving was never a choice," Matthews said.