The aftermath

It's been two years since Katrina. What's delaying reconstruction?

By Stephen Koepp, Fortune executive editor

(Fortune Magazine) -- Not long after Hurricane Katrina struck two years ago, President Bush stood in the middle of Jackson Square in nearly deserted New Orleans and made a bold promise. He committed the U.S. to "one of the largest reconstruction efforts the world has ever seen. When that job is done," he said, "all Americans will have something to be very proud of."

At the second anniversary of the great storm, how should Americans feel about their country's follow-through?

"Proud" is not the word that comes to mind. "Frustrated" or "angry" would be more fitting. The progress has been agonizingly slow: Only about 60% of the population in New Orleans proper has returned; the city is 100,000 jobs short of its pre-storm payroll of 600,000; four of its seven general hospitals are still closed; the housing shortage has pushed apartment rents 20% to 30% above pre-storm levels and left at least 13,000 families still living in trailers; the murder rate is by far the highest in the nation; and entire neighborhoods, like the Ninth Ward, remain wastelands.

Notes of optimism, like the resurgence of restaurants and the tourist trade, do compete with the dirge. But why has the rebuilding of homes and businesses frustrated such good intentions and big talk?

Fortune and several of its sister publications at Time Inc., including Time, People, and Sports Illustrated, sent journalists to the region for a firsthand exploration. Their stories and pictures can be found not only in their magazines and on their websites but also presented collectively at fortune.com/katrina, along with multimedia reports from the scene.

In the issue of Fortune you hold in your hands, we bring you an incisive look by Adam Lashinsky into why the billions of dollars of rebuilding money has been caught in bottlenecks, a report by John Simons on the near impossibility of getting property insurance in New Orleans, and a wake-up call by Nick Varchaver on the vulnerability of America to future disasters in the gulf, an all-important oil and gas gateway.

Our stories are illustrated by the riveting photojournalism of Stanley Greene, who has been documenting the aftermath of Katrina since the day it struck. Highlights of his work can be viewed at fortune.com.

In the President's speech in Jackson Square in September 2005, he vowed that "this great city will rise again." What will it take to deliver on that prediction? Our reports contain some surprising answers.

Read the New Orleans 2007 special report:

Where's the Money?

Risky business

The next energy crisis Top of page