Symbol of Hope in New Orleans

On this anniversary weekend, the pre-season NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and the San Diego Chargers means something to more than just football fans.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Superdome became an enduring symbol of despair. Now rebuilt, it shows how far the city has come.

Summertime, and the living is easier now in New Orleans. The Saints are NFL champions. Their Superdome's an icon of this city's rebirth. This was unthinkable back in 2005 when New Orleans was drowning. Twenty-four thousand people wandered into the Superdome, and were trapped inside a horror.

"It was an absolute cesspool," said Superdome GM Doug Thornton. It was "a living hell," he added. "Seventy percent of the roof's membrane was blown off."

Rebuilding would cost $250 million. Naysayers included Thornton's own wife, Denise.

"Spend millions of dollars to rebuild a stadium when most of the people are homeless," she asked. "It didn't make sense."

Complete Coverage: Katrina Five Years Later

But it did to city and state leaders - to jumpstart downtown business and inspire others to rebuild. Thirteen months after Katrina, the Superdome had a new roof, a new field, and new life. It is a huge success.

But a half-mile away, Charity Hospital represents how far New Orleans still has to go. James Moises, an emergency room doctor, used to work at Charity. For generations, it was the safety net hospital for the poor people in the area.

"This entire medical district has been dead for five years," Moises said. Today, the hospital's a ghost-building. After Katrina, LSU, Charity's owner, closed it for good.

Aline Preston was born at Charity and still lives in the city's Lower Ninth Ward on Flood Street. Many of her family survived Katrina in the Superdome. But with Charity gone, now have little access to health care.

Five years ago, the two landmark buildings were both lifesavers. But now, only one of them shows signs of life.

To replace Charity, LSU hopes to build a billion dollar teaching hospital. But financing's still short $400 million. Even if the project started today, the project might be ready by Katrina's 10th anniversary.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.