One City Block in Iraq -- Now and Then

Groups stick together to maintain calm and coexistence on Baghdad street.

BAGHDAD, Aug. 30, 2010— -- When a huge car bomb aimed at a church in the heart of Baghdad shattered an apartment building in 2004, injuring the Hussein family inside, neighbors -- a mix of Sunnis, Shiites, Christians and Kurds -- rallied.

Mayada Hussein, a Kurd, suffered third-degree burns and was in a coma for three months; her daughter Dima lost her eye and still needs more surgeries.

"Everyone here come to my house to help us," Hussein said.

As Vice President Joe Biden visits Baghdad to mark the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq Tuesday, signs of hope are continuing to blossom in small, residential backstreets like where the Husseins call home.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis left mixed-race neighborhoods after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, which set off much of the deadly sectarian attacks and led to massive body counts.

But on a few little city blocks like the Husseins', where many of the residents tend to be well-educated, there has been a long history of coexistence.

Saad al-Durobi is a Sunni lawyer who owns the apartment building.

After the 2004 bombing, he paid for a barrier to prevent cars from traveling down the street.

"I'm doing this for the sake of my own country," he said. "Iraq is made up of all these groups."

The decrease in violence on these residential streets and in Baghdad -- in September 2006 at the height of the war, 3,389 Iraqi civilians were killed; this month, 270 -- is getting noticed by businesses.

A man named Fadel is opening a pickle shop in another building. "It's one of the safest places in Baghdad," he said.

"The Muslims will protect our church more than the Christians," said a priest.

Despite the calm, these residents still have difficult lives.

Baghdad: Little Power and Loads of Trash

Today, there is a huge generator that provides power to families that can afford to pay because the city's power is so unreliable. Before the war, people in Baghdad had 16-24 hours of power a day. Now, in some places, it's just two to four hours.

To be fair, there is more power generation capacity today than during Saddam Hussein's days. Officials say that can't keep pace with the rising demand, which is kept high because city electricity is free.

The system is so antiquated, that there are live power lines that hang low over the sidewalks where children play.

Residents also lack trash removal; even in wealthy neighborhoods, trash can be seen strewn all over the place. "Local officials are lazy and careless," said one man.

And as Tuesday's end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq nears, fears about the future are leading many to want to leave and move to America.

One woman said living in Baghdad was "no good." When asked what was no good, she responded: "Everything."