Eight years ago today, I got out of bed at about 2am and turned my TV to the Weather Channel. It put me in tears. The radar showed a powerful hurricane about to smash into the Louisiana gulf coast. My sister had called several hours earlier,  requesting that I call her upon rising, no matter the hour.

When she answered, I said "This going to be horrible!" The direct damage from Hurricane Katrina has been estimated at 180 billion dollars, and more than 1,800 deaths have been blamed on the storm. The gulf coast region, New Orleans in particular has been rebuilding ever since.

New Orleans Mayor Landrieu said, "The city is a much better place than it was eight years ago. The biggest challenge we have is blight."  He added that 10,000 blighted properties have been removed.

When Katrina hit, thousands of people who couldn't escape in time were trapped. Many were rescued by helicopter from rooftops. The Superdome became a miserable shelter for thousands as tensions and temperatures rose.

The Cajundome here in Lafayette became an evacuation center.
Federal, state and local officials came under fire from angry residents & evacuees.
Billions of federal dollars have since been spent rebuilding the levee system.

I think that we have successfully done the most important thing, which was to think about building the city back the way she should have always been and not the way she was.                              - New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

Gov. Bobby Jindal called  New Orleans "America's Comeback City," in a statement on Wednesday.

The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center says about 80 percent of the pre-storm population has returned. Rebuilding cost estimates run as high as 150 billion dollars. Many neighborhoods have been restored, but  there are some vacant lots where houses once stood.

The way of life has changed, but some things remain intact, like Mardi Gras, the zest for great food, music and the Saints.

Refugees scattered far and wide. Many found the decision of returning, or not, to be a weighty one.

Linda Rhodes simply said, "This is home. This is home."