From the vantage point of a four-seat Cessna 182 in mid-flight, the skies over the Mississippi Gulf Coast appear clear on a recent afternoon, and the sun is bright.
For miles along the coast, the view from above reveals the stunning power of Katrina's storm surge -- as high as 30 feet as it churned ashore. Bare building foundations abound.
On the ground, the view is much different from a year ago in the days just after the hurricane. Then, there was nothing and no one around, with piles of debris everywhere.
The debris is pretty much gone now. People have set up travel trailers where their homes used to be, next to bare slabs of foundation. The trees are green again.
Pass Christian, east of Waveland and across St. Louis Bay, is one of the towns hit worst by Katrina.
Jim Schmitt is a contractor who is working on rebuilding a dozen houses in the area. He says he is amazed that people are rebuilding exactly where they were before, with the same type of construction.
"People seem to think it's only going to happen once, that lightning is only going to strike here once," he says.
"It's not a matter of if, but when."
Rebuilding has progressed slowly as people try to secure funding, battle with bureaucracy or wait to see what new elevation rules are adopted. And finding skilled labor has been a big problem.
Many workers left after the hurricane and never returned. Schmitt says he's paying about 50 percent more for workers now and getting 50 percent less in skills. Many crews are coming from out of state.
"Our biggest concern is not another storm, but that we lose the community of the town," Schmitt says.
Some people have left and don't plan to return. But Schmitt's other worry is about unbridled development along the coast: the construction of high-rise condominiums with no sense of community.
Once those sort of buildings start going up, it's very difficult to stop, he says.
"It's kind of like wildfire," Schmitt says. "You light the match at one end of the beach and it's going to go to the other end."
Resistance to this kind of development presents a dilemma for Leo "Chipper" McDermott, Pass Christian's new mayor.
Pass Christian is a small, sleepy town; it had 7,000 residents before the storm. It's also a historic town, with gorgeous, antebellum mansions, many of them now destroyed.
The mayor desperately needs a revenue base, because sales taxes and property taxes have been nearly wiped out. Condo developments are a tempting prospect, and McDermott supports building them in some commercially zoned areas of town.
His biggest fear is that Pass Christian won't be able to recover from the devastation of Katrina.
"I feel like we have a monumental task here. Six hours took 300 years of history, put 300-year oak trees into the Gulf of Mexico," McDermott says.
Hurricane Camille in 1969 was supposed to have been the big one. It was a Category Five storm that spun smack onto the Mississippi coast.
Anthony and Antoinette Alexander were married 37 years ago, two months before Camille. Katrina hit them hard.
"It took us 28 years to get the house decent, and a day to lose it," says Anthony Alexander who, with his wife, worked as an oyster shucker.
The Alexanders live in Pass Christian -- in a FEMA trailer now. They hope to get an SBA home disaster loan, and they've come to a local volunteer center in Pass Christian for help.
The center is housed in a small, plywood structure called the Gray Hut. Mariah Furze has a database of people who need help with their homes, so if volunteers come, she'll be able to match them up.
She has a list of 357 families that need to have their entire homes rebuilt. Her own name is on the list.
The initial stream of volunteers has tapered to a trickle. With most of the cleanup done, Furze now could use skilled laborers such as plumbers and electricians, carpenters and roofers.
For Furze, it's difficult to hear about all the attention New Orleans is getting.
"For me personally, you wake up and you're not any farther along, and that's very hard to take," she says.
"It's been a year. And people out there don't understand that it's taken this long to crawl out from under the debris."
The debris is mostly gone now on land, but out in the water, it's a different story.
Chuck Pinson is project manager for Matthews Marine/Gulf Equipment, which has a $6.7 million contract with the Coast Guard to pull hurricane debris out of Mississippi waters.
"There's a lot of nasties out here in the water still," he says.
Pinson hired fishermen from Mississippi and Alabama to do the work. Boats with grappling hooks on winches pull debris from the shallow waters a half-mile from shore; after they receive permits to do so, they will use nets to drag the bottom out farther.
Rufus Young is one of the fishermen hired to clean up the water.
His boat is filled with huge tree limbs he's lifted out of the water. He drops them close to shore, where they'll be hauled away to landfills.
Young lost his house in Pascagoula, Miss., in the hurricane, and the cleanup work is good money: $75 an hour per boat.
The job is hard, he says, but he's lucky to have it.
He's found beaten-up boats, carpets and Mardi Gras beads that still had their price tags.
Young thinks the Mississippi Gulf Coast will come back better than it was.
"You know everybody's going to build back better," he says. Of his own house, he says it will be "higher and stronger. That's what I'm hoping for."
People here find hope where they can: in the oysters they see growing on these live oak logs they're pulling out of the water -- a good sign for restoring the oyster beds that were ravaged by the storm.
They also find it in the sunflowers that have sprouted all over -- surprises from all the birdseed that was tossed about by Katrina.
But the hard, practical questions -- what kinds of towns these will become, how to rebuild in a safe way, how to bring the economy back -- those are all a long way from being answered along the Mississippi coast.
This report was recorded by NPR's Flawn Williams and produced by NPR's Andrea Hsu.