Post-Katrina New Orleans offers recovery lessons for Haiti

The spray-painted X marks from the search-and-rescue teams still mar the dilapidated buildings where the bodies of people, dogs, cats and even chickens were found in Hurricane Katrina's wake.

But new schools, homes, businesses and clinics rise here and there from empty lots in scarred neighborhoods. The city's population has grown to 80 percent of pre-Katrina levels. And the Super Dome is now known as the home of the new Super Bowl champion Saints — not a sad and befouled refuge of last resort.

More than four years after it became modern America's largest disaster, New Orleans is a city of contrasts that serves as a living lesson of do's-and-don'ts to its distant and shattered Creole cousin of Port-au-Prince: rebuilding is slow, painful, expensive, dynamic — and a marvel for those who stay.

"You're not going to rebuild a neighborhood or a city in five years," said Tricia Jones, an activist who, along with everyone else in the Lower Ninth ward, lost her home on Aug. 28, 2005.

"The reality is, it does take long -- longer than you would like. But for every day, there's another house going up. And let me tell you, that's something special when you're driving around. That's something special," she said. "That is the healing portion that keeps us going."

But New Orleans is far from healed.

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