A year ago Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, parts of southern Louisiana, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Most of the media focus is on New Orleans, so perhaps, the rest of the country does not realize how badly hit Mississippi was. This is due in part to the fact that the recovery of the Gulf Coast is progressing more smoothly than the recovery of New Orleans. For that we can thank the gaming industry, which has poured large sums of money into rebuilding the area, local and state governments that cooperate with each other and with the federal government, and the many volunteers and locals who set forth to rebuild.
But Mississippi was hit hard. There are towns on the coast that were completely obliterated. Nothing left except the roads, and sometimes, even these were washed away. A 30 foot storm surge does that kind of thing. Entire neighborhoods swept away. This goes on for miles and miles. I've seen both New Orleans and the Coast first hand, and both sadden me.
I live 60 miles north of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and although we made preparations to stick it out, we evacuated at the last minute. I'm glad we did. It would have been hell on our children. We went to Jackson, 160 miles north of the coast and stayed with my folks. Even there, tropical storm force winds lasted 7 hours. A tree fell on my parents' house while we were in it, and the city lost power for 4 days. All the businesses closed, so no supplies could be purchased. The water had to be boiled or chlorinated in order to drink it, and bathing was out of the question. This in 90 degree weather, no air conditioner of course.
When the power returned in Jackson, my husband & I went back home to check out the damage . The eye of the storm passed directly over our town and everything was a mess. Miraculously, our house was OK. We lost 2 trees, but they fell in the road, not on our roof. There were trees in every road including the interstate and the highways. Every other road was closed.. The grocery stores weren't open yet, but there was nothing in them. No gas for cars, no electricity, no clean water, no ice. Once ice was shipped in, a man killed his sister over a bag. Another man was carjacked and murdered over the gas in his tank. We had intended to stay and clean up the mess, but decided it was too risky, and gave our supplies to our friends who were staying and went back to Jackson.
For 2 weeks, we drove back and forth, cleaning up our neighborhood, and helping friends. Gradually, school reopened, and we brought the kids back. Gradually things got cleaned up. There are still blue roofs, and still trees on houses. The landscape has changed tremendously. There are great patches of blue sky where there was once nothing but tree tops. The population of the town has changed. Lots of evacuees relocated here.
I know there are stories more dramatic than mine. I am one of the lucky ones. It's just hard to believe how devastating the storm was 60 or even 160 miles inland. There is a peculiar feeling I get when I watch the news footage marking the 1 year anniversary of Katrina. It's like I'm remembering a dream, where everything seemed primitive and all the people were angry or stunned. I remember at the time thinking I'd never feel normal again, that things would never be normal again. But, somehow, here I am, living my life, normally. So many others aren't there yet. My heart and prayers go out to them. I hope that they can have their normalcy soon.