(NBC) - The storm has been gone for a long time now. The casinos are up and running again in Mississippi. The excitement of Mardi Gras, and the surprise Super Bowl win for the beloved, but oft beleaguered Saints, have all been reasons to celebrate along the Gulf Coast.
Still the images and painful emotions from Hurricane Katrina linger. In the Ninth Ward, five years of weeds and vines have taken over much of what the wind and water left behind.
"I don't really think that a lot of these neighborhoods are coming back," Katrina Survivor Terry Adams said.
Only 24 percent of the Ninth Ward residents, who were there before the levees collapsed, have made their way home. The numbers are a bit better citywide.
New Orleans is at 78 percent of its pre-Katrina population, while the latest census data shows the population in Biloxi has dropped every year since Katrina, down more than 10 percent overall.
But for 89-year-old Al Mangin, there was no choice. He says he had to come back.
"Memories you know, that I want to preserve," he said. "And as I say, being born here, I want to stay until I die."
Mangin's original house, built in 1905, was the place he and his six siblings had always called "home." But Katrina took it away.
"There was debris all in the front of the house," he recalled. "Just a pile of massive, broken timber."
But he was able to save one important link to his past.
"This little window up here, I salvaged," Mangin said.
It's the centerpiece of his new home now. A symbol, like so many along the Gulf Coast, that is a testimony to the determination and resolve of the survivors here.