Carly Toole watched the flooding on TV from her home near Philadelphia. Early word from Tulane was that the school would reopen in a few weeks. But by the end of that first week, it was clear that Tulane wouldn't open for months.

Determined to start college somewhere, Carly began looking at schools that were opening their doors to students displaced by Katrina. Her father, Theodore, called his alma mater to see what arrangements might be made. Kenyon had a space for Carly, he was told. She'd ultimately be one of two Tulane students Kenyon would accept. She was given a dorm room; her tuition was waived. Carly and her parents drove to Gambier, arriving September 5. Fall semester had begun a week earlier, but Carly managed to sign up for the same course schedule she'd planned to take at Tulane--philosophy, psychology, English, and chemistry. She bought a few things for her dorm room, fired up her laptop, and settled in as a new Kenyon student.

For nearly a month, Renee Peck imagined the worst about her home in Lakeview. On September 24, she and Stewart drove back to New Orleans for the first time since they had evacuated. Despite all the news footage they'd watched, they were ill-prepared for what they discovered upon their return. The house had taken in a few feet of water and the roof was ripped off in places. Three different kinds of mold crawled up the walls, weaving its way in and around family photos and wall paintings. The streets were lined with garbage, downed trees, and cars washed into odd places by the floods from the 17th Street Canal.

"There was a macabre fascination to it--seeing these trees with huge upended roots all over the place, water still covering most of Lakeview," Renee says. "Everything was brown and gray and there were no birds and there was that sweet, rotting smell of mold. It was still raw, like Armageddon. I thought the city would never recover."