The most terrible price of Katrina - everyone can see this - was not the destruction of lives and property, terrible though this was. The worst of it was the damage done to the ties that bind Americans together. It is very much too late for senior federal officials, from the president on down, to reknit these ties. It is just too late for the public-relations exercises that pass for leadership these days, the fine speeches from the Oval Office or other stage-managed venues. The real work of healing will be done by citizens much lower down the chain of command: the schoolteachers and superintendents of public school systems around the country who are taking in children and putting them through the healing routines of the school day; the morticians who do what they can to respect the dead; the National Guardsmen who protect the vacant city; the officials and business people who plan its rebirth. To an important degree, the future of confidence in American government will depend not on the leaders who failed their trust but on the foot-soldiers who did not and whom Americans can only hope will do the right thing now. Millions of acts of common decency and bureaucratic courage will be necessary before all Americans, and not just the storm victims, feel that they live, once again, in a political community and not in a savage and lawless swamp.