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Listen to your new neighbors' stories 

Evacuees from New Orleans speak

They walk among us: real people -- newly minted Atlantans -- who survived the kind of horror we thought we'd only see in disaster flicks.

Except real-life disasters are more tragic and more inspiring. Much like Atlanta's refugees from foreign lands, who've lived their own heroic sagas, every evacuee from New Orleans arrived here at the end of a journey that reset their lives forever.

They survived the wrath of nature, the (continuing) folly of a pitiful government response and the dismemberment of a great American city. They landed in the New South's sprawling, sometimes-too-busy-to-hate-or-love-or-say-hello commercial capital. Whether they stay in this metropolis or return to the wounded city that once considered itself Atlanta's rival, most have now been here long enough to call themselves Atlantans.

In the timeline he prepared as part of this week's cover package (p. 34), Scott Henry captures the diverse journeys and voices of those new neighbors. In truth, the evacuees come from more diverse roots than one story could have represented. Many are working-class folks, who saved and sacrificed to build solid lives in New Orleans, only to see everything wash away so suddenly. Many already were struggling to survive in New Orleans' troubled neighborhoods, only to see things get much worse after Katrina.

An impressive number were members of New Orleans' creative class -- artists, techies, writers. We're fortunate that one of those creative types landed in our office. A&E Editor David Lee Simmons was the A&E editor and then managing editor of Gambit Weekly, New Orleans' alternative weekly.

I've learned from David Lee over the past few months about the inescapable loss felt by all New Orleanians. In his essay in the cover package, David Lee shares the pain, stress, hope and confusion he feels as we approach Katrina's first anniversary.

We'd do well to listen to our new neighbors' stories -- partly because we owe that to them, but also because we owe it to ourselves. In a go-go city that breathes commerce, construction and occasionally crass cold-heartedness, we gain sometimes by remembering that life isn't all an action movie.

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