Backstory: Hope takes root in New Orleans

Civic spirit blooms in the wake of Katrina as hurricane survivors look away from their personal loss to reclaim community heritage in City Park.

City Park holds more than 150 years of Creole history: It's where New Orleanians' daughters were married, where families played with their children every weekend, where men proposed to girlfriends. Bob Hope and The Beatles performed here, where a century ago duels were fought at dawn. The stunning bridges, gardens, fountains, and lagoons are the legacy of Depression-era work programs.

So when hurricane Katrina drowned the park under 10 feet of salt water, it was a communal - and personal - loss.

But not a loss that absorbed all hope.

Tired of the depressing headlines and the media focus on that loss, 500 New Orleanians, along with the Shreveport National Guard, joined on a humid November weekend to rejuvenate their park.

"Seeing something come back to life gives us so much hope," smiles Millie Munsch on a break from planting with her colleagues from the National Association of Women in Construction.

"It's a roller coaster," she says, detailing how her home, flooded in September by eight inches of water now shelters her father, brother, and sister who all lost their homes. "Every day is a new challenge."

But ask anyone left in the city how they're doing, and their list of emotions always ends with "hope" - the kind sprouting in City Park.

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