Hurricane Katrina is the most difficult assignment of my almost 29-year career with The Associated Press. Three days after the storm flooded the city, it became very clear that this would essentially be the last story I

View photos below »would cover. There have been only a couple of brief assignments away from Southern Louisiana since August 29, 2005, and there is no reason to believe this will be any different in the future. This story will be years in the telling.

Telling this story has been a challenge from the start. Even though specific challenges it poses have evolved, they never seem to lessen. Logistics, once overwhelming, are now just plain difficult at times, as all of us deal with competing pressures of fixing what is broken in our personal lives [see editor’s note] and continuing to convey to others what doesn’t work in theirs. Usually in our business, we deal with only one of these dimensions at a time, given that our assignments about disaster usually take us far from home. And even if we face danger and discomfort, those we love are safe and cared for, so we’re able to approach what we do each day with undivided attention. Living in the intersection of family and work can, at times, feel like an impossible place to be. Both are full-time jobs; each requires daily attention, and each influences the other.

Three days after the floodwaters, family members were evacuated, some to Texas, others to Oregon and Mississippi. This July was the first since Hurricane Katrina that all of Haber’s family members were home in New Orleans. Four of their family’s homes were torn down, one was rebuilt, and three with water damage were repaired.
For these reasons, and others, Katrina remains a unique assignment.

From a photojournalist’s perspective, the ongoing struggle involves capturing that telling image that conveys the scope of human suffering and destruction. Trying to do this every day taxes the limits of my ability as no other story ever has. There has been no break from Katrina’s devastation in two years, as we work still on most of the same stories we did in the early days of the storm—tracking difficulties people are having with housing and crime and safety, with levees breaking and being rebuilt, with vanishing neighbors and empty neighborhoods, with insurance companies and financial aid. The one image that is behind us is the water—rushing through our streets and into our homes. But no one can assure us it won’t be there again.

What I now know—two years after Katrina arrived in New Orleans—is that even as the city’s population has shrunk and attention to its plight has waned, the stories related to Hurricane Katrina only continue to expand and our resolve to cover them strengthens.

Bill Haber is a photographer with The Associated Press; he started with the AP in Dallas, Texas and has been in New Orleans since 1984.

Shredded blue tarps, used as emergency roof repairs, hang from the roof of the Milne Boys Home in New Orleans. January 26, 2007. Photos by Bill Haber/The Associated Press.

Water from the 17th Street Canal moves to Lake Pontchartrain through pumps put in place by the Army Corps of Engineers. March 10, 2007.

A woman marches past a flooded home and two FEMA trailers while participating in the Krewe of Dreux Mardi Gras parade. February 17, 2007.

The air traffic control tower at New Orleans’s Lakefront Airport can be seen through a window of an unrepaired building. July 25, 2007.

A flag flies in front of where a home once stood in Long Beach, Mississippi. February 1, 2007.

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