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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees
Katrina: Two Years Later
Aired August 29, 2007 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening.
We don't care much for anniversaries on this program, solemn remembrances of stories long since past. But, tonight, we come to you from New Orleans to report on a story which is still very much unfolding.
Two years ago tonight, these streets were filling with water. Levees poorly built over decade on shifting sands failed. And, two years ago tonight, what was a natural disaster became very quickly a manmade one.
Now, two years later, the recovery of this city, this region, is under way. And it, too, is manmade. Two years ago tonight, governments failed. The people here have not. New Orleans is rising again.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COOPER: I'm surrounded tonight -- I'm surrounded tonight by volunteers, young men and women who have come to this city to help the residents rebuild and renew.
And whatever progress has been made here, a lot of it is due to the people around me tonight and thousands like them who have been coming here over the last two years. We will tell you their stories in the hour ahead.
But we begin tonight with a look back at a storm and a week none of us should ever forget.
COOPER (voice-over): Katrina slams into coastal Louisiana and Mississippi at dawn on August 29, winds 140 miles an hour, storm surges as high as three-story buildings. The story rips at, rips up beachside communities, working-class neighborhoods miles inland for hours.
In New Orleans, a city built below sea level, officials pray the levees hold. Most do, but most is not enough. A few levees erode. Some are overtopped. A churn of debris-filled water pours in, rises fast, up to the rafters of two-story houses. Eighty percent of the city is flooded. Thousands are stranded.
In the first five days after the storm, almost 2,000 people are rescued by boats, more than 5,000 brought to safety by Coast Guard helicopters. Despite 24-hour television coverage of the flooding in New Orleans, chaos at city hospitals, looting by both the greedy and the desperate. Top federal officials are slow to mobilize large-scale emergency aid to the city.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In our judgment, we view this storm as a temporary disruption that is being addressed by the government and by the private sector.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: But conditions are appalling in the sweltering mass shelters in New Orleans, more than 20,000 people in the storm-damaged Superdome, 15,000 people stuck in the New Orleans Convention Center.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALES AND FEMALES: We want help!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got bodies in there. You got two old ladies that just passed, just had died, people dragging the bodies into little corners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It takes four days, four long days, before major government relief efforts are under way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D), LOUISIANA: Congress is going to an unprecedented session to pass a $10 billion supplemental bill tonight to keep FEMA and the Red Cross up and operating.
COOPER: Excuse me Senator. I'm sorry for interrupting.
I haven't heard that, because, for the last four days, I have been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I have got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset and very angry and very frustrated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It becomes the largest migration of Americans forced from homes since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s. In New Orleans, a city of half-a-million, fewer than 10,000 remain one week after the storm.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY NAGIN (D), MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: Read my lips. We will rebuild New Orleans East and the Lower Ninth Ward.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: For those of us who were in Hurricane Katrina's path, who saw firsthand what this storm did, there are so many questions still to be answered, so many memories, vivid and often conflicting, terrible human suffering and thousands of acts of human kindness, memories of what the forces of nature can destroy and what human nature can withstand, so many examples of that.
But one stands out, a woman we met in the hell that was New Orleans a week after the hurricane.
An old, legally blind lady -- they call her Ms. Connie -- waits with her companion, a lab named Abu.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONNIE, LEGALLY BLIND: I'm not sure where I will end up, but I'm very sure that God knows where I will end up.
COOPER: God is still watching over New Orleans?
CONNIE: Absolutely. Absolutely. Will she rise again? Yes, indeed. Absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, in the days of Hurricane Katrina hit, almost everyone was focusing on New Orleans, understandably, where tens of thousands were stranded at the Superdome and at the Convention Center, also in hospitals and on rooftops.
But in Waveland, Mississippi, things were terrible as well. I have been to a lot of disaster scenes over the years, but what I saw, what we all saw in Waveland two years ago was truly overwhelming. Bodies lay out on the streets for days, uncovered, uncollected. People returned to find their homes destroyed. For many it was simply too much to bear.
COOPER (voice-over): Reporters are supposed to remain distant, observers. There is no distance in Waveland anymore.
(on camera): You find just about any block you go down here in Waveland, especially along the beach, I mean, people are just coming back, one by one, and finding their home is just completely gone and it's -- it's devastating. I mean, actually, that's...
COOPER: The fact is, Katrina nearly wiped Waveland off the map.
Near the water, virtually every building was destroyed. Nearly two dozen people died in Waveland. And it took days to find their bodies. I spent a day with a FEMA search and rescue team looking for bodies.
COOPER: People boarded up their homes before the storm. And some of them were hiding inside the homes that were all boarded up. So, these four people, man and wife and two children, have died in this home. And they have been inside for 48 hours now. So, when the rescue workers break inside the home and open up the windows, the smell, it's overwhelming. It just goes down the block.
COOPER: That's what it looked like two years ago. In that home, a wife, a husband and their two children were found.
Now another heartbreak for those who once called Waveland home. For many, it has simply become too expensive to rebuild there. Take a look.
COOPER (voice-over): In the week after Hurricane Katrina struck, Waveland, Mississippi was a wasteland. Dead bodies lay in the streets for days. Many of those who managed to survive the storm lost everything.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's my chair.
Bill and Myrtle Kearney live near the water. Their home was destroyed, but, even in the face of so much loss, they tried to maintain a sense of humor.
(on camera): You vacuumed your house?
ANN MYRTLE KEARNEY, HURRICANE KATRINA VICTIM: I vacuumed my house to the moon, so that, when we came back, we would have a pleasant environment to come back in.
COOPER (voice-over): Now two years later, when I catch up with Bill and Myrtle, a concrete slab is still all that remains of their home.
(on camera): Nice to see you. How are you?
KEARNEY: Welcome to our home.
COOPER (voice-over): Their sense of humor is still intact, but their optimism is gone.
KEARNEY: Look around you. Look, there's no community left. That's the big deal to me. COOPER: The Kearneys say they had hoped to be back in their home by now. But high building costs and a shortage of labor have made rebuilding a distant dream.
In Waveland, there are signs of progress, homes and businesses coming back, a new playground, but no children are in sight. Only about 60 percent of residents have returned. City hall is still in a trailer park. This is a place frozen in time.
(on camera): You see these slabs of concrete everywhere in Waveland. It's the foundation of what was once somebody's home. Two years after the storm struck, the residents here say they -- they still want to rebuild. They still hope to rebuild, but they're facing an awful lot of hurdles. The biggest battle, say residents, is dealing with the insurance companies, which they thought were there for their protection.
ELLEN BREATH, HURRICANE KATRINA VICTIM: Dealing with the insurance company has been worse than losing our house, I think. It's just been a nightmare.
COOPER (voice-over): Ellen and Chuck Breath lost their family home of five generations in Bay Saint Louis. They want to rebuild, but the insurance premium would now be more than five times what they paid before.
The Breaths also lost two commercial properties here in nearby Waveland. State Farm insured them for wind damage, but said the destruction was caused by flooding, so they weren't covered. After two years of fighting, the Breaths say they gave up, settling for less than 50 percent of what they believe they were owed.
CHUCK BREATH, HURRICANE KATRINA VICTIM: They didn't have to sue us in order to get their premium. We paid it. And I think they should have turned around and done the same thing.
COOPER: State Farm's spokesman insists the company has served its clients well.
JONATHAN FREED, STATE FARM NATIONAL SPOKESMAN: This storm was so out of whack for so many people that, in some cases, a vast minority of cases, it sometimes takes a little longer to really get down to what the root causes of damage was in different cases.
COOPER: The mayor of Waveland, Tommy Longo, says what the insurance companies are doing is a sin.
TOMMY LONGO, MAYOR OF WAVELAND, MISSISSIPPI: When you see a family that's paid insurance premiums for 50 years, never had a claim, lose everything that they have had in their life and told they don't recover a nickel, something's wrong.
COOPER: The Breaths do plan to rebuild. So do Bill and Myrtle Kearney. But like so many Gulf Coast residents stuck in this waiting game, for now, all they have is a slab to call home.
COOPER: So many people still waiting in Waveland.
Two years ago, you know, we made a promise, promise on these very streets that we would not forget what we had seen in New Orleans and in Waveland and all along the Mississippi Gulf, that we would not let anyone else forget what happened here.
Since then, we have broadcast from this city nearly 20 times. And, tonight, yet again, we're here to report on progress and the lack of it. In the last two years, federal, state and local leaders have all made a lot of promises. And too many of them have been broken.
Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest," starting with the man hired to oversee the recovery, Ed Blakely. You might think that rebuilding New Orleans would be a full-time job and that the guy in charge would be around here every single day. Well, you would be wrong.
"Keeping Them Honest," here's CNN's Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's earned the nickname of master of disaster, after a California earthquake and wildfire. But there are those in New Orleans who say Dr. Edward Blakely is shaping up to be a disaster himself. Among his blunders? Calling the people of New Orleans buffoons after a planning meeting.
MALCOLM SUBER, NEW ORLEANS COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: The question should be, who was the buffoon who hired him?
KAYE: Last December, Mayor Ray Nagin hired Blakely as the city's recovery czar. "Keeping Them Honest," we went to Blakely himself to chart his progress.
(on camera): So, you have been on board since December. What would you say you have actually accomplished since then?
EDWARD BLAKELY, NEW ORLEANS RECOVERY CZAR: Well, first, we have the plan. Secondly, we now have about $500 million we didn't have before.
KAYE (voice-over): That's only half of what he says he needs. Blakely's blueprint for recovery is $1.1 billion. Despite the lack of funds, he says he's made progress. In fact, the way Blakely tells it, he's practically rebuilt the city.
BLAKELY: The LSU complex is another accomplishment. Practically every street in the city is being repaired. That didn't happen before I got here. All the signs are up. The city's running.
KAYE (on camera): Do you think that he deserves credit for a lot of work that has been done?
JEFF CROUERE, NEW ORLEANS RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: That's not Dr. Blakely. I mean, those are initiatives that were really done by the Louisiana legislature and other bodies. I mean, I think what he unfortunately has a tendency to do is take credit for things which really aren't his doing.
KAYE (voice-over): Blakely says he has spent a couple of hundred thousand dollars on a library and supermarket, not exactly the major rebuilding he promised residents.
(on camera): You had promised cranes in the sky by September.
BLAKELY: They're there. They're there.
KAYE: We came here to the very spot Dr. Blakely directed us to, just off Interstate 10, so we could see the cranes that he says are already in the sky for ourselves.
No cranes here.
(voice-over): And no plan, critics charge, to help the poor rebuild areas like the Lower Ninth Ward, just middle-class neighborhoods.
SUBER: It's like seeing people who already got something to eat.
BLAKELY: I'm out in the Ninth Ward at least once a week, working with poor people, making sure they are included.
KAYE: He organizes bike tours, where he says he teaches urban planning to residents. But critics say all the peddling is a joke. Blakely is simply not around enough, they say, traveling to a teaching job in Australia and to speaking engagements around the U.S.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Being paid $150,000 to do a full-time job and getting half-time commitment was really disappointing to a lot of people.
KAYE: Blakely says he rarely travels anymore, though he was rushing to the airport right after our interview.
BLAKELY: People can say whatever they want, you know. I just have to do my job.
KAYE: When, many asked during our visit, will he start getting results?
Randi Kaye, CNN, New Orleans.
COOPER: While the federal government has been slow to deliver the money, the state and local governments in Louisiana have been slow to deliver a plan for rebuilding.
And it bears repeating. What's been accomplished here, the homes that have been rebuilt -- and there have been many of them -- it's because of people like these young members of AmeriCorps with me tonight. You guys feel like you're making a difference here?
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COOPER: It's remarkable, the work many of them are doing here.
Joining me now is Jared Kahan. He's from Silver Spring, Maryland. He's now working Saint Bernard Parish.
You have worked also in Waveland, Mississippi. You're now -- you're with AmeriCorps, but you're assigned to Habitat for Humanity, correct?
JARED KAHAN, AMERICORPS: Oh, absolutely. I'm with Habitat for Humanity Saint Bernard. We're obviously helping in the recovery efforts, rebuilding houses.
COOPER: Did it surprise you when you first got here? I mean, you had seen pictures, obviously, but is it different actually being here?
KAHAN: Oh, absolutely. You can't imagine the -- the destruction that happened.
And then meeting people, you -- you never know how inspirational they're going to be.
COOPER: You know, I have had people who haven't been here who have said, you know what? I'm tired of hearing about this. I'm tired of hearing people in New Orleans looking for a handout.
Do -- the people you meet, are they looking for a handout?
KAHAN: Absolutely not. They are looking for someone just to care about them. And they want to get back to where they were before, and better. And we want to help them. They just need help.
COOPER: And do you think the people here feel forgotten? Do you think they have been forgotten?
KAHAN: I think generally yes, but then they look around at the volunteers and they think that there is hope. And we give them hope. And we are here for them. More people are coming, but we still need more help.
COOPER: Do you worry that the number of volunteers is going to -- as time passes, that it's going to drop down?
KAHAN: I think that outlets like yourself, media outlets, will help that. I think volunteer housing will improve. There's been an unbelievable amount of help down here. But we still do need more. I think it can...
KAHAN: ... go up. COOPER: Well, what's -- I mean, to someone who may be considering coming down here, what's the reward? What's -- what's the -- what's it like?
KAHAN: To be inspired, to be motivated, to do good work, to be selfless, just to meet a group of people and help them and do everything that you can.
COOPER: Do you think New Orleans can come back?
COOPER: Do you think it is back in many ways?
KAHAN: In some ways. I think there's a lot of work to be done. I think, in the areas surrounding it, there's a lot of work to be done as well. But it's on the right path.
COOPER: All right.
Well, thanks for all you're doing, Jared. Appreciate it.
KAHAN: Thank you.
COOPER: Thank you.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COOPER: Some volunteered time. Others donated money, a lot of money, to help rebuild the Gulf Coast, but where did the money go?
COOPER (voice-over): Habitat for Humanity under fire. In the weeks after Katrina got a flood of cash donations, only a fraction made its way here. Why not more money? And why have only about 100 homes been built or are in the works?
Plus, the names of the dead -- outside a New Orleans church, a list of those killed this year, more than 100 victims, a reminder how deadly this city has become. What's being done to make the streets safer -- when "Katrina: Two Years Later, Keeping Them Honest" continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The amount of rescue and the amount of people and -- and just every turn of the head here in our helicopter, devastation and -- and just tragedy, tragedy followed by heroics and complete joy.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COOPER: We were videotaping a helicopter rescue of two people plucked from their home by this massive machine. The helicopter's rotors churned up filthy water, spraying it on our cameras, getting it into our mouths.
Charlie, my producer, had to hang on to a stop sign to keep our boat from getting swamped. Chris, our photojournalist, cut off his shirt to keep Kevin's camera lens dry.
You do what you can. You try to stay clean and you try to stay safe. But it's not always possible in conditions like these.
COOPER: It is so strange. Earlier today, I tried to find the street where we shot that video where we saw that family being rescued. It took me a while to find it.
The stop sign is actually still there, but, you know, on so many of these streets in New Orleans, there are no markers to indicate the horror of what happened there. You can literally walk by a spot where, two years ago, you saw a body lying, and there's nothing to indicate the horror of what happened. It's like the memory of it is risked getting swept away.
Life has to go on, of course, but it's important to remember as well. That's why, tonight, we're looking back, as well as forward.
After the storm, Habitat for Humanity was flooded with donations. And, last year, the New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity was the single largest homebuilder in the city. They say 49,000 volunteers have helped to build new houses in New Orleans and gut more than 2,000 hurricane-damaged homes.
But, two years after the storm, in some of the hardest-hit areas of New Orleans, a lot of folks are asking, what is taking so long?
Here again is CNN's Randi Kaye, "Keeping Them Honest."
KAYE (voice-over): For Rhonda Brown and her three children, this FEMA trailer is home.
RHONDA BROWN, LIVING IN FEMA TRAILER: It's real right. It's real small.
KAYE: Thousands like her are still waiting on Habitat for Humanity to build them a home. But, in the two years since the storm, Habitat has only built about 70 homes in New Orleans.
LARRY GLUTH, VICE PRESIDENT OF U.S. OPERATIONS, HABITAT FOR HUMANITY INTERNATIONAL: Are we satisfied? Would we like to see more homes there? Absolutely.
KAYE: Habitat blames the slow progress on the city's lack of sewage and power. Could more money have put New Orleans Habitat on the fast track to rebuilding?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just devastation everywhere you look.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: It turns out Habitat for Humanity International raised $140 million after Katrina. We have learned only a fraction has actually been sent to the New Orleans chapter, just $15 million.
TRENT STAMP, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CHARITY NAVIGATOR: The biggest concern with Habitat is -- is, where exactly did the money go?
KAYE: "Keeping Them Honest," we pushed for an accounting. Numbers provided to us by Habitat International show, Louisiana's chapters received about $53 million, Mississippi $28 million. Eighteen million went to Alabama and Texas. About $30 million was used for projects, including fund-raising and public awareness. That's more than twice what New Orleans got.
New Orleans Habitat raise $20 million on its own to spend when it gets more land. The director of Habitat here says he's already spent the $15 million he got from Habitat international. Seventy-two homes have been built, 128 under construction.
JIM PATE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEW ORLEANS AREA HABITAT FOR HUMANITY: We had 80 percent of the damage here, and so you can argue, well, 80 percent of the contributions should have come here.
KAYE: Instead, less than one-tenth of the contributions trickled down. The city's Habitat director, Jim Pate, says, two years later, he's still waiting for $10 million that's been allocated. It's expected to be transferred within 12 months.
STAMP: I think most donors would have preferred that Habitat spend more in New Orleans than they have done.
KAYE: Habitat International tells us donors designated just over $2 million for New Orleans.
GLUTH: I really feel that habitat has been a good steward of its donors' wishes and that the money has been allocated to areas that donors wanted it to go to.
KAYE: Rhonda Brown doesn't think so.
BROWN: I think it would have made a hell of a difference, because we are all stuck out here in this trailer. We need that money. That could have helped a lot of people to get out of this trailer.
KAYE: She says she's been told it will be another year before her Habitat home is ready for move-in.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New Orleans.
COOPER: Well, from homes to health care, if you get sick here now in New Orleans, you may be in trouble, a shortage of doctors and nurses, a shortage of hospital beds, medical care on life support. Two years later, people want to know, what will it take for things to change?
Also ahead in this hour, a rebuilding nightmare: Some homeowners who came back ended up seeing their dreams literally knocked down. How could this happen?
We're "Keeping Them Honest" -- when this 360 special continues.
KAYE: I'm Randi Kaye here in New York. More from Anderson in New Orleans in a moment.
First, here's a 360 news and business bulletin.
No love today for Senator Larry Craig from fellow Republicans, colleagues Norm Coleman and John McCain calling for his resignation in the wake of the bathroom bust revelations.
An autopsy is under way in the death of Richard Jewell. Mr. Jewell was falsely implicated in the bombing at the Olympics in Atlanta 11 years ago. He had been battling diabetes and kidney failure. Jewell was 44.
The word today from NASA, no evidence that astronauts flew drunk or blasted off while blasted. The internal review came after two reported incidents in which astronauts were so drunk, that concerns were raised about their safety to fly.
Wall Street made up for losses yesterday. Blue chips rose nearly 250 points, to end the day at 13289, the Nasdaq finishing at 2563. That's up 62. And the S&P tacked on 31, closing at 1463.
That's all from here -- up next, more from Anderson, "Keeping Them Honest" in New Orleans.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
COOPER: Welcome back.
We are here in Saint Bernard Parish with several hundred of the volunteers from AmeriCorps and Habitat for Humanity and some of the other groups who are doing just remarkable work here in New Orleans and all along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It's easy to understand, though, why so many people here feel -- feel frustrated. Did you know that less than a quarter of applicants have actually received checks from the Road Home program, the federal program that's supposed to help victims of Katrina and Rita rebuild or relocate.
Now, tens of thousands of people are still waiting for their payments two years later, still waiting.
Meantime, some homeowners here in New Orleans who have been able to begin repairing and renovating their damaged houses are now reporting another kind of horror story. You're not going to believe this. Their homes, which are already well on the way to recovery, are going to be torn down by the city of New Orleans.
Take a look.
COOPER (voice-over): IdaBelle Joshua spent most of her 79 years living in this house in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward.
IDABELLE JOSHUA, LOST HER HOME: I had three kids here. It meant my life.
COOPER: After Hurricane Katrina flooded her home, IdaBelle says she spent more than $5,000 on repair work, and then went to city hall to make sure her home wasn't on the demolition list. She says two city employees assured her it wasn't. Two days later, however, she got a disturbing call.
JOSHUA: My nephew told me that my house was gone.
I said, you got to be kidding. I have not received any notification from anybody.
And he said, auntie, it is not there.
COOPER: Today, a concrete slab is all that's left. Idabelle has joined others who say their homes were demolished in a class action suit against the city.
KAREN GADBOIS, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: These are all on the list.
COOPER: Community activist Karen Gadbois spends her days photographing many of the 1,700 homes on the city's imminent health threat list, and she tries to notify their owners.
GADBOIS: Our first pass-bys of these properties, we were truly -- we were shocked.
COOPER: Karen says the list includes many homes with little damage. She also says that the notification process is ineffective. Basically, the city posts the addresses in the local paper, online and mails a notice that the house will be torn down in 30 days. But many people have moved and, because the mail isn't certified, they never receive it.
GADBOIS: I'm just looking for these people and trying to help them navigate this system, which is an unjust system.
COOPER: The city attorney, however, insists the system does work.
PENYA MOSES FIELDS, NEW ORLEANS CITY ATTORNEY: Homeowners do have a responsibility to understand the law. We're two years after the storm, and it's a public health risk that's at stake. And so they need to immediately take action.
COOPER: But even those taking steps to rebuild say getting their property off the list is nearly impossible.
Terry Dicarlo has been fighting to save her 92-year-old mother's historic home.
TERRY DICARLO, TRYING TO SAVE HOME: It's beyond frustrating. It's heartbreaking. It's like going through a maze, and you don't know which way to go. There's something very sinister going on here.
COOPER: There could be motivation to speed up the process.
STACY HEAD, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL: FEMA will stop picking up for the Corps of Engineer's work to demolish houses in September. And so yes, the city wants to get all of the properties that need to be demolished, demolished right now.
COOPER: The city attorney denied the FEMA deadline is a factor and insists changes have been made to improve the process, including a revetting of the entire list and written confirmation of the status of the house.
But for Idabelle Joshua, it is far too late.
JOSHUA: It was home to us, and we were very proud. And as a senior citizen, I'm struggling and starting all over again.
COOPER: Hard to imagine.
Coming up next, law and disorder.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): Murders are climbing. So are armed robberies.
FATHER BILL TERRY, ST. ANNA'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH: Two, three stabbed, and everybody else has been shot.
COOPER: And the death toll just keeps growing. What could be done to stop the killings? We're "Keeping Them Honest", next on this special edition of 360. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's not a hell of a lot you can do for people this sick with just a stethoscope. I'm not sure if I was really being more of a doctor or of a priest. This is where hell opened its mouth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: This is one of our favorite bars, the Spotted Cat. The band is local, the Jazz Vipers. The music is loud, and the dancing is free. Frankly, you won't find another place like it in any other American city.
It is just one of the places that makes New Orleans great and one of the places that is back and open for business.
It's important to point out that, while there is much that still needs to be done here, the life of the city in parts is returning.
The French Quarter, where most of the tourists go, is alive again. It's cleaner than ever. The restaurants are open. You can have some of the best food in the country in some of the restaurants in New Orleans. The bars are open.
Do you guys ever get to go out to any of the bars here in New Orleans?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
COOPER: You can have a lot of fun in the city, and the people here want you to know that the life of the city, in many ways, has returned, and they want visitors to come.
Many say the lack of an infrastructure, including a fully functioning crime lab for police, is one of the problems that is leading to a surge in crime.
Right now, that is, as we said, there is good here, but there is also bad. In New Orleans, a murder happens every 1.8 days. The most recent killing just yesterday.
Once again, CNN's Randi Kaye looking at why crime has become so bad.
KAYE (voice-over): In a city where murder has become mainstream...
TERRY: Two, three stabbed and everybody else has been shot.
KAYE: Father Bill Terry is keeping track, updating what he calls simply the murder board, a running tab of New Orleans homicide victims. So far this year, more than 120 killed.
TERRY: Strange little things happen. Like you measure the safety of the city by the height of the ladder. It just occurred to me one day. I used to use a 12-foot ladder to go to the top. The shorter the ladder, the sadder I got.
KAYE (on camera): When Father Bill first started the board, he had the names professionally printed. But after a while, the printer couldn't keep up with the number of murders. So now Father Bill writes each name personally himself.
(voice-over) The board is his way of humanizing the headlines.
TERRY: Numbers are very easy to deal with emotionally. I want people to squirm. I want people to feel uncomfortable about the murders going on in the city.
KAYE: People like Mayor Ray Nagin and Police Chief Warren Riley.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We had five roses this week.
KAYE: Every Monday, Father Bill has roses delivered to them, one for each life lost that weekend.
(on camera) Is it sort of this in your face statement to them: "Hey, what are you going to do about this?"
TERRY: No. If it's in your face, we let their conscience put it in their face. We're not putting it in their face.
KAYE (voice-over): "Keeping Them Honest", we tried to talk to the mayor about all the homicides. He refused.
(on camera) The mayor has said many times that he's going to make violence a top priority, put an end to the homicides in this city.
TERRY: God bless him. I'm not sure how he's going to do it.
KAYE: Is he making this a priority?
TERRY: I would like to think that the mayor has made it a priority. I would like to think that the mayor is a compassionate man that cannot see the slaughter of his citizens continue. How effectively he's addressing that issue is a different question.
KAYE (voice-over): What does Chief Riley think of his weekly rose delivery?
CHIEF WARREN RILEY, NEW ORLEANS POLICE DEPARTMENT: He sends those roses, I guess, as a reminder, which certainly I can appreciate him doing that. But I'm more aware of our crime problem than anyone in the city. KAYE: Father Bill, meanwhile, is already making plans to hang another murder board. Even this man of faith doesn't believe the killing will stop any time soon.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New Orleans.
COOPER: Well, the violence in New Orleans is a glaring example of what isn't working two years after Katrina.
Joining me now is Julie Reed, a contributing editor at "Newsweek" and "Vogue" who grew up in Greenville, Mississippi, and now lives here in New Orleans.
There's a lot that we -- you know, focused a lot on what isn't working. What is working, though? I mean, there is life here in this city.
JULIE REED, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "NEWSWEEK": Well, I think you touched on it, and these guys touched on it. The wonderful world of bars that we have in New Orleans and restaurants.
But I mean, seriously, the small businesses and restaurants drove, to me, the resurgence of New Orleans right after the storm.
In the two years since, what I've seen that I never saw before was citizen involvement that just did not flat exist. I mean, you know, there's always been a tradeoff, like bugs flying in your face, for example.
COLMES: Yes, one of the joys of reporting in New Orleans.
REED: To live here has never been easy. I mean, it wasn't easy pre-Katrina. I mean, it's hot as hell. There's bugs all over the place. I mean, you know, last century there was Yellow Fever and Bubonic Plague. Now we have, you know, whatever, flying termites. It's not -- it's never been easy, but people make the tradeoff because it's so beautiful. The architecture is amazing.
COOPER: And that civic life, though, is something new. I mean, in the...
REED: It never existed. People were like, oh, it's a cool place to live. And meanwhile, the infrastructure is rotting, and we have all these corrupt politicians, which we've had for centuries. And nobody cared, because it's like, let the good times roll.
I mean, if a hurricane could take you out any minute, it's like just have a good time while we're lasting.
COOPER: But the civic thing we have seen in the wake of Helen Hill's murder and a number of the murders here, when we saw African- Americans and white residents banding together.
REED: The March on Crime, I think you were here the night that happened.
COOPER: Yes, absolutely.
REED: I mean, our murder rate has always been high. It's been high for four or five decades. This is not a new thing.
But people are reacting this time. They're holding our politicians accountable.
I mean, you get the government, you demand. I mean, it's not like that in Mississippi, where everything's kind of working well. We've never had effective politicians. Even if they weren't crooked, which is -- you know, was the norm, they weren't all that -- they were either lazy or inept or just not that smart or just didn't care or whatever. And we're seeing that.
And now, you know, with Oliver Thomas, who was our city councilman that had to resign, everybody is like that's so terrible. It's one more thing about New Orleans.
But in fact, he was -- he pleaded guilty to a crime that he committed during a corrupt administration a long time ago. We are weeding that kind of thing out. People are not putting up with that kind of stuff.
COOPER: So you're optimistic?
REED: I'm very optimistic. I have no choice.
But B, there are other things that are better than way before the storm. I mean, our spill system was completely broke, and schools were operating in condemned buildings.
Now we have a chance to remake a school system, and that's happening. We have a great superintendent.
We had a school system that could never be fixed, and it kept businesses and people from moving to town. And now we've got a model system. We've got charter schools and Hispanic-American schools.
COOPER: How long do you think it will take before New Orleans is the way it should be?
REED: Oh, well, I mean, goodness, who knows? Maybe five years, maybe ten. But my point is New Orleans was never going to be the way it should be without the storm. The storm has given us openings to do things that I do not think would have happened otherwise.
COOPER: And those things are happening?
REED: Those things are happening.
COOPER: Julie Reed, it's always good to have you on the program.
REED: Thank you so much.
COOPER: Thank you very much.
Still ahead, much more on the recovery in New Orleans. What is working and what isn't. Two years after Katrina, still "Keeping Them Honest" and still remembering how it was in the wake of the storm.
And next, hospitals in crisis. Why people are still dying as a result of Katrina.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And that's what you did, you came in with a gun and a backpack of medicine?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A backpack of supplies for myself, including medicine, bandages, you know, scalpels. I mean, just anything that I could get my hands on.
COOPER: Are you carrying a gun? Do you carry a gun with you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sure do. I was just not coming back to this town without this. I was not coming back in this town checking my house without this.
I have a sworn oath to help. And the last thing I want to do is hurt somebody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That was what Dr. Jeffrey Rouse (ph) was facing in the days after Katrina. He is still in New Orleans, by the way, still trying to help people here. A lot of doctors have left this city.
According to a survey next fall, the number of psychiatrists had fallen from 220 before Katrina to a mere handful now. There's not just a shortage of health care workers, there's not enough hospital beds.
According to a new study, the city's death rate has skyrocketed. And to add insult to the outrage, it turns out accurate death records aren't even being kept. The health care system here is on life support.
CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been two years, and the images still haunt me. Patients desperate to be rescued.
DR. BEN DEBOISBLANC, CHARITY HOSPITAL: Two of them have already died here on this ramp waiting to get out, on this very spot.
GUPTA: Early casualties in the chaotic aftermath of Katrina. But surely, things must have improved by now, two years later.
DR. KEVIN STEPHENS, DEATH RATE STUDY AUTHOR: We have just stopped. We counted the deaths in 2006 for the first six months, and that's what we saw, a 47 percent increase in the number of deaths.
GUPTA: A 47 percent increase in deaths as compared to before Katrina. More people dying long after the flood waters had cleared.
STEPHENS: Our studies showed excess (ph) mortality, meaning these are people who would not have died, hadn't it been for Katrina.
GUPTA: Physicians working in the emergency rooms day in and day out say, in the wake of Katrina, fewer doctors and patchwork care meaning more people die from treatable diseases like diabetes, heart disease, even mental illness.
DR. JAMES MOISES, TULANE HOSPITAL, EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT: We're seeing -- the population that we see here in the emergency department, they're sicker. And that's where we're seeing large numbers of death rates, increased 47 percent.
GUPTA: But the top health official in the state says the numbers are misleading and inflated.
DR. FRED CERISE, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HOSPITALS: What we're seeing is that we do not have a sustained increase in mortality. We feel comfortable that the death rate itself is roughly where it was pre-Katrina.
GUPTA: Dr. Cerise bases his numbers on official state death certificates, which he acknowledges are not real-time reporting. These paper records take months to update.
In fact, when Dr. Stephens, who is the medical director of New Orleans, asked the state for actual death records, even he couldn't get them. They weren't ready. So he was forced to turn to a surprising source, the local paper.
STEPHENS: Tell the state to actually get on the death certificates and do that. Now, it's just -- it's a perfectly quick (ph) way, if you will, to get an estimate of what's going on.
GUPTA (on camera): This particular day we saw three full pages of obituaries. What's even more remarkable is the number of deaths is better recorded by the newspaper here in town than by the state itself. We decided to find out why.
CERISE: In the -- immediately after Katrina, our record section was located in New Orleans, and there was a period where that was not our primary focus.
GUPTA (voice-over): Truth is, many doctors and patients feel two years later they are still not the primary focus. And shockingly, the city and the state are so disorganized, there are no real-time records on the continued impact of Katrina. No definitive up-to-date numbers on who is alive and who is dead. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, New Orleans.
COOPER: Just ahead, life in New Orleans and the Gulf two years after Katrina. We promised to never forget what happened here, and we haven't. Tonight, we're back to remember the chaos in the wake of the storm and report on the problems that remain. Katrina, two years later, "Keeping Them Honest" continues in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: In a city that's special, New Orleans, the brand that not only locals marvel at, but the nation and the international community marvel at. That's the New Orleans we're going to build.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, if it weren't for ordinary people and dedicated members of groups like AmeriCorps, like some of the young men and women who are behind me tonight, they were pretty certain that there would be far less recovery in the Gulf to report on today.
Our next guest knows that very well.
Arielle Davis originally is from Bellingham, Washington. Now you're been working, really, all over the gulf over the last -- what is it, seven months for AmeriCorps?
ARIELLE DAVIS, AMERICORPS: Yes, something like that. It's gone by pretty fast.
COOPER: You're leaving tomorrow?
DAVIS: Yes, leaving tomorrow, going back up north.
COOPER: What surprised you most here?
DAVIS: I think just the sheer lack of things that had been done. I expected everything to be so much farther along than it really was.
COOPER: In particular the Lower Ninth Ward?
DAVIS: In particular the Ninth Ward, yes. It was -- I think I use the word heinous. I thought that it was appalling that I would go somewhere and see the type of devastation years after it had occurred.
COOPER: It's strange, because juxtaposed to the French Quarter where life has returned, where stores are open.
DAVIS: Exactly. You can go down and completely forget. I think a lot of tourists do. They come in. They buy something kitschy and cute. And they don't really go and see the houses that aren't built and the homes that aren't there.
COOPER: What do you want -- what do you never want to forget that you've seen here?
DAVIS: I think all of the people that I've helped along the way, of course, and specifically, just seeing how it has affected just the local population. I don't think that I came from a place that was -- really had poverty, had the type of sheer deprivation.
COOPER: Arielle, appreciate all the work you've been doing, thank you so much.
DAVIS: Thank you.
COOPER: You and all the other volunteers.
DAVIS: Thank you so much.
COOPER: We've met a lot of people in the last hour and over the past two years. It remains the one great privilege of the work here. Their patience and warmth with an outsider is welcome. Even more so, their willingness to share anything even when they're got next to nothing to give.
I say seemingly because in the past two years I've learned there's so much more to the people in New Orleans and the gulf and what you can see in an hour of television or a week or a month. And as much as I'm grateful for their time and their stories, I'll always consider that realization their true gift to me.
That said, some quick thoughts on two years. I mentioned earlier that I'm not really big on anniversaries, especially ones recognized by television. They always seem artificial to me.
Maybe I'm just cynical about TV. But whenever I hear a newscast making a big deal about the anniversary of an event, I always assume it must be a slow news cycle.
COOPER (voice-over): So why then on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina are we here in the Gulf Coast? I guess it's because today more people around the country may be willing to take a few moments to remember what happened and what continues to happen here in New Orleans and Mississippi.
I've lost count how many times I've been to New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. I'm told we've done about 20 broadcasts here after spending a month in the area immediately following the storm.
I'm proud that CNN has remained committed to telling this story. A lot of other news organizations seem to have moved on. Katrina fatigue, that's what some people call it.
As anyone in New Orleans or the Mississippi Gulf Coast will tell you, the only people who have a right to Katrina fatigue are the people still waiting for their insurance company to reimburse them or those waiting for the long-promised Road to Home money, or those still trying to find help rebuilding their homes or their businesses.
I know today a lot of reporters will descend on New Orleans, many for the first time since the last anniversary. I'm glad they're here. The city, this region needs all the coverage it can get.
But let's not forget that tomorrow the cameras will leave. The television anchors will fly home, myself included, but the people and their problems will remain.
It's not enough to only think of them on this yearly anniversary. What they're going through is happening every day, every week, month after month. Let's keep that in mind. Let's keep them in mind, not just today but every day until their lives, their homes are restored.
COOPER: We look forward to that day when all of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast is rebuilt and renewed.
We promise, as we did two years ago, to continue to cover their struggle. Not just on this day but in the difficult days and weeks and months ahead.
We also want to thank AmeriCorps and Habitat for Humanity and all those volunteers joining us tonight and for all their hard work in this region. Thanks for watching.
Thanks a lot, you guys.
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