10/04/2005 11:11 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

What Makes New Orleans Different?

Today's Washington Post takes you all the way to the end of the story, about schools in suburban Jefferson Parish opening with only half the number of students present, to offer one clue to the uniqueness of a city for which so many pundits have been writing a demographic death notice:

William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution who studies migration, sees the long-term prospects of the population balanced between two factors. On the one hand, the region has not been growing rapidly.

"It's kind of the Rust Belt of the South," he said. "It hasn't been alluring to workers."

On the other hand, he said, natives of the state appear to have some devotion to it. No state counted more natives as a percentage of total population, he noted.

"Few other areas have a greater social attachment and sense of rootedness than New Orleans," Frey said.

Those who wondered about the skepticism voiced here in the early, frantic days of terrible rumors about the behavior of New Orleanians in their horrific distress should ponder that sentence. I know people in that town who've had bad things happen to them, but what I've experienced since living there is "greater social attachment and sense of rootedness". More than food, or music, or architecture, that's what sets that amazing city apart.