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Thinking about the tremendous effort that will be required to clean up New Orleans, repair the damage, rebuild, and maybe build a new levee system. Would they rebuild the city without building a new and stronger system of levees and pumps? The only logical alternative would be to abandon the soup bowl altogether, it seems--but people aren't logical. They rebuilt San Francisco after the earthquake of 1906, after all.

In fact, rebuilding San Francisco was such a major task that it provided the work that brought my in-laws' ancestors to this country from England. Here's a snip from the family history, as told by a distant relative:

"Alice married Frederick in 1906 and they had 4 children. Now in 1906, Alice's oldest brother, Charles Henry, emigrated to San Francisco to help rebuild the City after the earthquake. He returned to England for a visit in 1923, the year his father died. He must have told his family compelling stories of life in San Francisco, because that same year two more of Alice's brothers traveled together to the US. The following year, Frederick & Alice and their 3 boys set sail for the US on the "Leviathan" - arriving in New York on August 12, 1924. Frederick gave his occupation as "Motor Engineer" and they listed Marlow as their last address in England."

Frederick is my son's great grandfather. I heard about those "compelling stories of life in San Francisco" from my father-in-law years ago. Charles Henry told his siblings that you could "pick fruit right off the trees" in California.

So did the rebuilding of San Francisco require more workmen than were available among the survivors? Will the same be true in New Orleans? I wonder how many construction workers will head down to the gulf coast in the months to come.

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