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Your e-mails: 'We need to help rebuild'

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(CNN) -- One year after Katrina, some areas are striding down the road to recovery, while others have not even started. CNN.com readers sent in their stories of progress, loss and hope.

A year after Katrina, my family and I are simply WAITING. We have maintained our mortgage and insurance payments on our storm-damaged home, but cannot live there yet. We cannot move forward with the rebuilding process until we hear positively from the state of Mississippi and the development authority block grant. Waiting is the worst part. It stinks to not know if you qualify for grant money or not. It also stinks to not know how much you qualify for in advance. If I knew that, I could be making plans to rebuild.
Erica Scott, D'Iberville, Mississippi

One year after Katrina, my home -- five blocks from the breach in the 17th Street Canal levee -- has been gutted and is ready for rebuilding. My backyard has been cleaned up, six felled trees removed along with all the dead bushes. I have received [an insurance] settlement that, while less than I hoped for, was probably relatively fair. I'm sure it will cost more than $200,000 to rebuild my 2-story home which was drowned in 12 feet of toxic water after the levee breached.

I am currently living in an apartment in the French Quarter, but hope to rebuild after the current hurricane season ends and I'm hopeful I can be back in my home in Lakeview prior to 2008.

I know many New Orleanians who have died or been seriously incapacitated by what I call "Katrina sadness." I believe "Katrina sadness" has taken or destroyed many thousands of lives. But I remain an optimist -- sort of -- and believe that in 10 or 15 years, New Orleans has a chance to once again reign as one of America's and the world's unique and special cities.
Allan Katz, New Orleans, Louisiana

The past year has seen the most devastating and unorganized chaos brought to citizens of the great state of Louisiana since Reconstruction. Government has failed to produce basic necessities for all citizens. It has taught me and my family that although you pay taxes, work hard and volunteer to help others, life is not fair. We as citizens were lulled into a false sense of security and allowed that feeling to overshadow our own need for self-sufficiency. We have learned that the degree of complications in an individual's life corresponds to their insistence on dwelling on the way we think the world ought to be, rather than the reality of the way it actually is. We should all heed the lesson of required self support taught to us over the last year, and require less of government and more from ourselves.
Wayne White, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

A year later, my claim has still not been solved with the insurance. I lost my house and 95% of everything in the house. We live in Meridian, MS, about 2.5 hours from the Gulf, so we have seen little help. FEMA gave us $2,000, but the day after I received it I got two letters in the mail saying I wasn't eligible for any assistance, so that just tells me the money was sent to us by mistake. Red Cross gave us $370 for my husband and me. FEMA has denied us twice and denied our appeal. I have gotten a lawyer but the insurance of course is very reluctant to talk to her. Habitat for Humanity will not help us rebuild because we aren't low income; I'm a teacher and my husband is a fireman. The list continues on and on about the last year. People need to know that we are still recovering from this storm, even though a year has passed.
Kacie Luebbers, Meridian, Mississippi

My husband and I lived in D'Iberville, Mississippi, when Katrina hit one year ago. We had evacuated to Jacksonville, Florida, the Friday before it hit, and when we came back to Mississippi, it was awful. It was shocking. The college that I attended, William Carey College, was destroyed. My husband's office in downtown Gulfport was gutted. Luckily we still had our house, it was built 20 miles north of the beach, so we didn't get any water damage, just a bit of wind damage. We moved to Wyoming a couple months after the storm because we discovered I was pregnant and didn't want to continue running away each hurricane season with a baby. We sold our house in D'Iberville to a family that had lost theirs and that makes our move to Wyoming worth it.
Courtney Googe, Laramie, Wyoming

I had a very bad feeling about this storm and knew that I might never see my house again. When I returned, I was shocked to see the amount of devastation and how corrosive salt water could be. Everything was destroyed. I was able to find some china but that was about it. I have worked since I was 16 years old and never thought that in one day, I could lose my home, equity and be financially challenged at 45 years old. I did have flood insurance but no one had enough -- you think of 2-3 inches for a flood -- not 9 1/2 feet. Of course, we all had tons of homeowners' insurance, but the agencies would not pay because of the water. You think you are insured but you are not! ... I took the chance and purchased another home and have been renovating it. I just could not rebuild where I was, because the levee would remind me every day of what had happened. The house that I have been repairing since January is almost ready and we hope to move in three weeks ... We are very determined to make this happen. We love New Orleans and feel that we need to help rebuild this wonderful historic city. It would be an American tragedy to see a part of history disappear.
Kim Priez, New Orleans, Louisiana

While much progress has been made in the Gulfport-Biloxi area, when friends come down to visit, the remark I hear is "Have they started cleaning up yet?" To the outsider it still looks as though Katrina could have hit just a few days ago. The further west you go along the coast past Long Beach the more it still looks like a bombed out war zone. Bay St. Louis, Waveland etc., are way behind in cleanup and repair of infrastructure. I will say Mississippians are tough and aren't playing the role of victim. At first daylight after Katrina neighbors were out clearing road with their own equipment...that is the attitude that will bring Mississippi back bigger and better than ever.
Dean Gray, Gulfport, Mississippi

I think we are finally beginning to recover. People who have never lost everything will never understand how hard it is to pick up the pieces and begin like nothing ever happened. My husband finally got a job that pays bills, rent and car payments. FEMA only gave us $2,400 for everything I left in my apartment. I need a new washing machine and still need a lot of things, and there are things that can never be replaced, like my children's baby teeth or first haircut.

What really is disturbing is how many people in the U.S. are tired of Katrina victims, and have forgotten about the need. Three months after we got to North Carolina, we were told "OK, you have to pay all your bills; Katrina is over." There are still people out there much worse off than my family and they do need help ... Will I go back? No. It is not a good place to raise a family, and living every hurricane season with fear in your mind is not a great place to be.
Cheryl Velasquez, High Point, North Carolina

My family and I moved back to New Orleans from Savannah, Georgia, on June 28, 2006. I was surprised to find that most people who lost their houses are simply not coming back. My husband is a general contractor, so it made sense for us to take part in the rebuilding effort. We are living only in a portion of our house, as of now. Our first floor was destroyed by eight feet of water. My husband spent several months going back and forth, trying to repair our home. He came back when our daughter was only five weeks old, to make the house livable for us so I could bring the children back. We work on the house daily. I've never worked this hard in my life. I literally strap my baby to my body and get to work; there's no other way around it, since childcare is impossible to find. We are making progress, and our house will be beautiful again, but I worry about the future of our neighborhood. Most of our neighbors are still in trailers, with no signs of work being done. Many have lived here so long that they were underinsured or underpaid by their insurance companies. Others have been cheated by out-of-state contractors, who took advantage of good people. There is a constant sadness in the air. This is not the end of my Katrina story, but just the beginning.
Dawn Edwards-Sheppard, New Orleans


story.CurtisDenBefore.jpg

Joseph Curtis snapped this picture of his den in East New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Rebuilding: Vital signs
• Gallery: Landmarks over time
• Storm & Flood: Making history
• I-Report: Share your photos
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