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A Year Of Katrina: Revisiting The Rescued, & Returning To The Convention Center

“It seemed like everywhere we walked, we saw another story. Every time we turned around, there was another story to tell.”

Tracy Smith is talking about her first trip to New Orleans, just after Hurricane Katrina made landfall.

Smith, the national correspondent for The Early Show and the co-anchor of the Saturday Early Show, revisited some of her memorable.

The series of reports aired on Monday’s Early Show. They were the result of one question: “We’re going to be running images of all these people. We’re going to see all these people from the convention center. What happened to all of them?”

For example, Smith revisited a family she met at the now-infamous convention center. Last year they said they would never return to New Orleans, but they’re back.

tracyaug29.jpg“Hopefully each of these little microcosms can illustrate the scope of the story,” she says.

Others have had a tougher year. “Some people really seem like they’re suspended in time,” she says.

On Aug. 31, Smith’s crew helped rescue two tourists from Atlanta who were trapped in a flooded Comfort Inn in downtown New Orleans.

“They had stayed in a hotel that everyone else had left,” Smith says.

The CBSers were concerned that one of the tourists, an 83-year-old woman, wouldn’t survive.

Her daughter “came up to a CBS producer and said ‘We need help, we need help,’” Smith recalls.

The crew entered the Comfort Inn to interview the two women. As they walked back downstairs to leave, producer Jason Sickles came down the street and said CBS was evacuating the city due to new reports of flooding.

“We just couldn’t leave the city without taking them,” Smith says.

The two women are back in Atlanta now. The daughter would like go to back to New Orleans. The mom isn’t so sure.

In the days following Katrina, Smith spent a lot of time at the convention center. She says it’s strange to see conference attendees using the convention facilities.

“All I can see is they’re walking right through places where kids were playing next to dead bodies. It’s absolutely surreal,” she says.

Trashed hallways have new carpet and layers of paint. Dirty and disgusting bathrooms have now been sanitized and sandblasted.

“If only it was that easy to do that with people’s minds,” Smith says.

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