[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/24/art.nola.fourth.anniv.education.jpg caption="Eighth grade students at Carver School, a public school in New Orleans."]
Katrina washed away so much in New Orleans. Neighborhoods, homes, and lives.
It also washed away a horribly under-performing public education system, but is now giving the city a rare opportunity: the chance to rebuild public schools from the ground up.
Spend some time with 14-year-old Donnell Bailey and it is possible to see signs of improvement from what was once a broken school system.
By his own admission, Donnell was a lazy student. He failed the fourth grade and didn’t focus at all on his future.
Now, after four years of reform, he’s done so well in public school he just earned a scholarship to a $17,000-a-year private school.
He credits the teachers who came to the city in the aftermath of Katrina.
“The expectations were higher,” Bailey said. “My teachers expected me to live up to those expectations. So, the drive that my teachers gave me, it really pushed me up to that level.”
Editor's note: See Sean's full report tonight on AC360 at 10PM ET.
It's striking how two people can look at the same thing and see something entirely different.
A gun, for example.
I've talked with a number of Americans buying weapons - lots of them.
And I took a few shots with an AR15 semi-automatic weapon.
This gun - and don’t call it a weapon - is really at the core of a disconnect in this country between gun enthusiasts and people calling for more gun control.
One side says, “why on earth would anyone outside the military want to own something like that.. why is it even legal?”
That view drives defenders of the 2nd amendment up the wall. Here's what attorney Sean Healy told us.
"There is definitely a disconnect, there are some groups of people that don’t know much about guns, they have never been around them or exposed to them, and they don’t know how to handle them safely. And so if all they know about then is what they hear about them in the press or see on tv or hear from politicians, then sometimes they can be afraid of them.
"To another group of people (a gun) is like a tool, like a hammer - it's safe," Healy went on to say. "If you are member of the group that does not understand guns, you may think that criminals are the only ones who use guns, and there aren’t any legitimate uses for them. And I think once you become familiar with them, and their safety, you want people to have guns."
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/01/30/am.callebs.foodstamps.blog/Callebs.foodstamps.cnn.art.jpg caption="CNN's Sean Callebs reports on what it's like to live off food stamps for a month."]
Monday Feb. 2, 2009
10:40 PM ET – I thought the story about living on food stamps would generate a healthy amount of interest, but I was surprised by number of e-mails and calls I received . First things first. For breakfast I had a bowl of cereal, a banana, and tea. An hour later I was starving. I wondered if this was what the future held. Lunch, and a peanut butter sandwich, and iced tea did the trick, hunger pangs gone. Dinner was spaghetti and meat sauce made from lean ground beef. So far, so good. A lot of the folks who contacted me thought it was going to be hard to make it 28 days on food stamps. Others questioned my shopping habits. One person wrote that I was "whining" about not buying enough fruits and vegetables and basically blistered me for not doing a better job. Come on, I am trying! Rutgers University called about a program they have to fight hunger in America. The USDA, which oversees the food stamp program, also contacted me. They commended CNN for focusing on the problem of hunger in America. USDA officials say I am exactly right in saying the sour economy has pushed some people who never thought they would need government assistance into welfare lines. I will definitely talk more with them over the next four weeks. No running on Monday. We did reports from 6am, through 8pm. I will shoot for a long run on Tuesday. On a lighter note, anyone who watched the live shots Monday on American Morning may have noticed the Elvis magnets on the fridge. One of the PR Directors from Elvis Presley Enterprises sent me a message on Facebook. He got a kick out of the magnets, but also said the story was a reality check.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/15/art.bellandcallebs.jpg caption="Jena 6's Mychal Bell sits down to talk to CNN's Sean Callebs about his latest struggles, including a shoplifting charge and a suicide attempt."]
Mychal Bell says he felt pressure to be perfect after his part of 2006's "Jena 6" assault case was over. When police alleged last month that he wasn't, the Louisiana teen took his Christmas money and sought to buy a gun to kill himself.
Distraught after being arrested on suspicion of shoplifting and battery, the 18-year-old Bell says, he pointed the gun at his head and pulled the trigger.
I have watched the city sort of claw its way back since Katrina. I’ve lived here the past three years.
I have seen tourists slowly return, convention business pick up, and certainly the slowest sign of recovery –people rebuilding their homes and lives.
I watched with complete amazement as people poured out of the city in about a day, instantly turning New Orleans into a ghost town once again.
So, last night I decided this could be the last time I have some free time to myself in a long time, so jumped on the mountain bike and took a ride along the levee next to the Mississippi River.
It was dusk, as I wound my way around and I had a chance to look down at all the homes wondering if they would all be there intact on Tuesday.