Spirit of New Orleans

updated 08/27/2007 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/27/2007 01:00AM

For many Americans, the devastating images of a shattered New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina are hard to dispel. But last spring, I was among a group of editors from Time Inc. publications including TIME, FORTUNE, ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY and ESSENCE to travel to the city and witness firsthand the struggles—and the remarkably durable optimism—of the city's residents.

As the second anniversary of the flood approaches on Aug. 29, we bring you this week one such story of determination and promise: that of 10-year-old Kendell Lewis, who returned this week to the newly reopened Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School for Science & Technology, which had been nearly destroyed in the flood. It's a story of a boy's steadfast wish to literally go back to school—a desire so strong that it encouraged his parents, who had resettled in Houston, to return with their four children to their ruined home in the Lower Ninth Ward. It's also the story of the tireless efforts of Doris Hicks, the school's principal, to rebuild this beacon of hope—and give families a reason to return—in what remains one of perhaps the most flood-ravaged neighborhoods in the city.

This won't be the last time we highlight New Orleans in PEOPLE. In the months ahead we will bring readers other tales of people striving to regain what Katrina washed away and to prove that those who thought New Orleans was gone had better think again.

You can find more articles about Katrina's aftermath from Time Inc. publications at time.com/katrina.

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