NEW ORLEANS Joseph and Kesa Williams have come home once since Hurricane Katrina chased them off to Atlanta. Once was all they could bear.
Inside their ruined house on Delery Street in the Lower Ninth Ward, they found ceilings collapsed, possessions rotted and mold triumphant. They had expected as much from watching TV news. Much more disturbing was the abandoned-graveyard feel of the entire neighborhood, where working-class black families have owned houses for generations.
"From what I could see, nothing was happening," said Joseph Williams, 32, who has a new job as a probation officer in suburban Atlanta. "The only thing I found in my house that was worth taking was my high school class ring. I threw it back on the floor and we left."
Across town, Gary and Bea Quaintance, together with their son, Steven, 16, have moved back into their house on Memphis Street in Lakeview, a white middle-class neighborhood that was also wrecked by Katrina. Theirs, though, is an isolated, post-apocalyptic style of housekeeping. Lakeview is a neighborhood in name only, especially at night. The Quaintances are the only family on their block.