I’m in New Orleans this week for my brother-in-law’s wedding. Whether you drive or fly into New Orleans, you quickly realize that it is surrounded by a lot of water. This realization is more dramatic if you drive since there are 10s of miles of swampland dotted with fishing camps to cross. And, with Katrina in mind, the first time visitor is going to be overwhelmed by all the water and wonder once again: Why do they live here? Katrina seems to creep into conversation every day even between people who live here year round. The swath of destruction it left behind is still visible and a part of everyone’s life. But, for those of us who have family here, it isn’t any wonder why they stay. Families in New Orleans shared the fate of the ancient Oak trees that live throughout the city. When I returned to New Orleans for the first time after Katrina, the Oak trees in Audubon Park were obviously damaged. Some had been ripped apart and killed. But many, even though many of their branches had been stripped away, remained and sprouted new growth. Families may have been ripped apart, many have been spread to Houston, Atlanta and Baton Rouge, but many have decided to stay and stay together. More than the jobs (most of which were on hold for months or just plain disappeared), families are what keep people here.

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