New Orleans: Right of Return

'This Is Home'

Lydell and Helen Rogers were born and raised in New Orleans. Their Ninth Ward subdivision sits near the lakefront and took on 5½ feet of water when the storm surged through. They spent nearly a year in Texas, first in Houston, then in Austin.

"I do cooking," Helen, 65, told ABC News. "I was in Texas — love Texas and people are warm and friendly — but I could not make a part of a gumbo I wanted to make at Christmas, Thanksgiving or Christmas, because I couldn't find all the ingredients. Austin doesn't have shrimp and crabs. They don't have it! They don't have pate and hot sausage. That's a hot item. People want the real hot sauces for gumbo."

After Katrina, a group of teenage volunteers from Tennessee came and rebuilt the Rogerses' home. Helen says the couple got "a lot of love from young people."

"I've been living in this house for 35 years," Lydell said. "I have beautiful neighbors and they're coming back. We love it. This is our home. New Orleans is our home. I feel that everyone is coming back because they love New Orleans and feel this is their home and where we can be. This is a big home getting back together."

To Miss New Orleans

Anne and Bill Grace, both native New Orleanians, live in the Garden District. The storm did a lot of wind damage to their home, but there was no flooding.

They have a different take of "missing" New Orleans.

"I think a lot of people think New Orleans is just the French Quarter," Anne told ABC News. "So they'll come to the Quarter and stay within that. I think it's about 13 blocks, and they can take the street car up to Audubon Park or to the university section uptown or go up to the lake. So a lot of visitors miss the majority of New Orleans."

"Mardi Gras is not really what you see in the French Quarter," her husband, Bill, said. "That is just a small, small slice of the overall activities that occur. And it is a family activity. On Mardi Gras day, if you're on St. Charles Avenue you see entire families — and I mean three or four generations all together. They'll set up barbecue pits, maybe even bring a sofa out there. Haven't seen any iceboxes, but just about every other item you find in the home. They'll set up and watch the parades go by all day long."

Anne said she feels the bonds of family and community much stronger in New Orleans than in any place she's ever lived.

"People seem to love to stay in New Orleans. You may wander away — we've lived in Boston, we've lived in New York, and always been lured back to New Orleans because of family. And one thing that I've noticed talking to friends that don't live in New Orleans is the fact that when we have gatherings, it's multigenerational. And you don't find that in a lot of other cities."

The Times-Picayune's Rose thinks the city is misunderstood by the rest of the nation.

He talked about watching the first post-Katrina Mardi Gras on cable television, where predictably the cameras gravitated to the French Quarter.

"They'd have photos of women baring their breasts on Bourbon Street and I just picture John and Gladys back in Des Moines [Iowa] and they're going 'Oh my God! Look at what they are doing down in New Orleans!'" he said. "The chances are much greater that whoever was flashing their breasts on Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras was from Des Moines than was actually from here."

"That's not really the way we play things down here. Bourbon Street doesn't represent our lifestyle. It's not really jazz. It's not even the blues. It's mostly cover bands, Cajun music. It's fun. It's a place to cut loose and do things you wouldn't do back home. But it doesn't capture the vital element of what New Orleans is, which is really neighborhoods."

ABC News' Lauren Pearle and Nicholas Tucker contributed to this report.

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