More on CNN TV: Find out how the U.S. may be living on "The Edge of Disaster." A special report on "Anderson Cooper 360," 10 p.m. Tuesday ET.
The sound of hammers and the smell of freshly cut lumber filled the air as Josephine Butler proudly took me on a room-by-room tour of her new house.
She has lived in the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans since 1949 and has twice been flooded out by failed levees and hurricanes. After Katrina, her old house floated off with all her belongings and came to rest in her neighbor's yard.
So as I looked at the new spacious kitchen, the high, lofty ceilings and the clean shiny bathrooms, I had to ask the obvious questions.
Why is she back? Why is she rebuilding in the same old spot below sea level? And why is she willing to take the same old risk of being hit by a new flood all over again?
Her answer was simple: This is her home and the risk of natural disaster is everywhere.
You can't really blame Ms. Butler and thousands of others like her. The pull of home on the heart is strong and you have to admire the courage it takes to want to come back and make a go of it.
Her new house is more resilient. The roof and the pilings underneath are reinforced to resist high winds. The new house is also five feet higher off ground than the old one which puts her all of 3.5 feet above sea level.
Everyone here seems to understand the situation; more storms will come and so will floods. And being five feet off the ground isn't much help when you consider Katrina covered the neighborhood with more than 10 feet of water. Maybe that's why the contractor built an escape hatch into Ms. Butler's new roof; if flood waters rise again she won't be trapped and risk drowning in her attic.
Josephine Butler chooses to live in a high risk area, and she is just one of millions of people who are doing the same thing across the country. In some places, the threat is from natural disaster, but in others it is terrorism.
The threats we'll examine in an hour-long special tonight have two big things in common: 1) they can kill a lot of people and 2) they are somewhat preventable. What you may not be happy to hear is how little is being done to prevent them.