Great Cities That Came Back After Being Nearly Destroyed

Source: US Army Signal Corps / Wikimedia Commons

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on New York City, where almost one in eight deaths from the virus in the United States has occurred. There are reports of residents fleeing New York, convinced that the pandemic, along with the civil disturbances and the high cost of living make the city unlivable. New York has been through adversity before — the HIV/AIDS epidemic, Superstorm Sandy, and of course 9/11 — and it is one of the most resilient cities in the world.

As the future of New York City, as well as other places, is tested by the pandemic, 24/7 Tempo has compiled a list of great cities that came back from tragedy. We compiled our list by reviewing various sources such as,, and exercised editorial discretion to create the list.

Some of the cities on our list date back about 2,500 years, and though they don’t necessarily have the same stature as they once did, they’ve managed to stay relevant in modern time. These cities managed to avoid the fate of cities such as Pompeii, Carthage, Ephesus, Angkor, Palenque, and Petra, all of which disappeared hundreds of years ago. They, along with these 23 countries, no longer exist.

Many other cities persevered, overcoming wars, plagues, fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, and terror attacks. The destruction from events such as the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942-43 and the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906 raised the question at the time as to whether those cities should rebuild at all. In both cases they chose to do so. Tragic episodes such as the Great London Fire in 1666 and the cholera outbreak in Paris in 1832 served to create overdue building and public health improvements that put the cities on the path to modernity.


To find great cities that came back from tragedy, 24/7 Tempo reviewed various sources such as,,, and exercised editorial discretion to compile the list. We are not attempting to compile a comprehensive list of cities that have rebounded from adversity. We chose these cities because these are the most famous examples of resilience in the face of catastrophe. We considered but did not include New Orleans because it is still struggling to overcome the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

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