Sunday, August 20, 2006

This is a picture of the slab that was to be my parent's retirement home - obviously "pre-Katrina"

The picture on the right is the same lot after Katrina.

This is a view down the street (looking towards the water) and the lot is on the left. Note that every home is gone - completely leveled.

These are pictures of just one street in Waveland. The entire town looks like this.
Ok, I have put off posting for a while so let's get back to it. One thing that I have been thinking about over the past year but haven't really said too much about - Hurricane Katrina. My parents were building their retirement home in Waveland, MS and living in an apartment in Bay St. Louis, MS. My grandparents were also building a home in Pass Christian, MS - and 3 other relatives' families were also living in Pass Christian, MS. While I am sure my parents would have left regardless, had it not been for a phone call from my best friend, whose husband works for the National Weather Service, warning of how bad the hurricane was going to be combined with my parents insisting they all leave - I think some of them may have stayed and tried to ride the hurricane out.

Every one of them lost everything in the hurricane. My parents had all of their belongings (except for minimal things) stored in a storage unit in Pass Christian which was under 30 feet of water and because the people were not allowed into the city until weeks later, anything that could have been salvaged was lost. I find it hard for others to truly grasp what it means to lose everything - I get comments like "oh, it was just material belongings. at least they are alive." While I appreciate that sentiment, the "things" lost were not just lamps and tables. For example, as many people know, Southern women pride themselves in creating things with their hands, whether it be cooking, gardening, or quilting. The women in my mother's family have always been known for their quilts. We had quilts in storage that were made by my great grandmother and the ladies of her church, quilts by my grandmother, a quilt my mom was making for my brother, and a quilt that my mom and I were making together. Again, while most people would see these as just pieces of cloth and replaceable by buying a new one at WalMart - they are irreplaceable. These are pieces of art, every single piece hand sewn, each larger square sewn to another, and then the three layers (cloth, batting, cloth) quilted together. The women at the church would literally have "quilting bees" where the big quilting frame was brought out, the quilt attached, and the whole group would sit around and help each other finish their quilt. Those quilts are pieces of history and they cannot be replaced.

We also lost every single family picture we had ever taken - 40 years of marriage and family, moving all over the world with the military - and any pictorial record is gone. I think that was one of the hardest things to accept - my brother is getting married in October and his fiance wanted to put together a grouping of pictures of each of them growing up - that can't happen - there is no record. We no longer have pictures of my great grandparents, my parents don't have their wedding album, we don't have pictures from our time in Taiwan and Hong Kong, we don't have any of our prom pictures. While some people may find this silly, I would challenge you to throw away every picture of every family member, friend, event, etc and then wait a few months. Or try to tell people about how much fun you had visiting the Black Hills of South Dakota - yet you can't show them. Or try to remember the pure joy on your brothers face while he was being chased by our first puppy - a beagle named jubilation.

Now for what has prompted this post - what appears to be the "anniversary celebration" of Hurricane Katrina which appears to be going on on every single tv channel. I can't turn the tv on without seeing an ad for some special coming up this week. I wholeheartedly agree with the fact that we must learn from the events of last year - and the complete clusterf--- on behalf of the Bush administration and FEMA. However, as was the case last year, it appears to me that most of the focus is now, and was then, on New Orleans. I have yet to see a complete report on what happened on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I believe that any true analysis of Hurricane Katrina should look at what happened as two separate, very distinct and different events. While New Orleans had a lot of destruction, it still had buildings standing. On the other hand, Waveland and Bay St. Louis basically do not exist anymore. Imagine every home and/or business for about 1 mile off of the coast, being completely leveled. My father describes it as looking like an atomic bomb went off. The situation in New Orleans was about so much more than the hurricane. The situation in MS is vastly different. And in my opinion, the government has learned nothing from what happened - and god forbid there were to be another one, even a category 3. In my opinion, we would be completely unprepared to handle it.

There is still so much work to be done and I would urge anyone who reads this to find out what they can do. Whether it means volunteering with a group of people to help rebuild, or sending donations to the libraries and schools to replace books, or getting active in politics to ask our representatives the tough questions about emergency preparedness. (And that in no way means I support this administrations belief in ruling by fear.)

Bay St. Louis was a beautiful, small, friendly, Southern town with great people, wonderful restaurants, and huge live oak trees. While many of the people remain, everything else is gone. It will take many years to rebuild, and even when that happens, it may never truly be the same little town.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

On the Road Again

Well, I left AL yesterday and am making my way back to school. I'll spend some time with the folks, then visit my brother, and then return home. I hope to make more posts once I'm back at school - things will be a little crazy until then. Hope everyone is having a good summer!

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Ok, so I'm almost finished w/ my summer internship in AL - one week left. I have to say that it has been successful as far as advocating for clients - so that's a good thing. I will miss the people I work with. I will not miss having the lug all my clothes to the laundrymat though! Especially when the heat index is 107!

Finishing up the internship just means that I am that much closer to my last year of law school - which is both scary and exciting! I am in the process of redoing my resume and will be starting to apply for jobs - keep your fingers crossed!

Have a good weekend!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Are you kidding me!? Nope!

This is scary - but true. And coming from a teaching background - and having to defend history books to school board members with no education or history background - this is all too familiar and all too politically motivated.

Thoughts? Comments?
Just a quick note today - I am sending in my last acceptance letter for student loan money! I don't know whether to be excited about that - or to freak out since that means it is only a matter of time before someone will expect me to start paying this back! YIKES! I better get it in gear and find a job!

Have a great day!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Ok - I've sent out emails to friends and family about this blog so I figured I should probably post something. As many of you know, I am in Tuscaloosa, AL for the summer working for the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program (ADAP).

ADAP is what is known as a P&A (protection and advocacy group) and each state has a P&A which is federally mandated to advocate/protect people w/ disabilities. Our organization is divided into two sections - community team and children's team. I am working with the children's team. Much of our advocacy is done on behalf of children in the custody of the AL Department of Human Resources (DHR - basically the foster care system) and comes out of a consent decree (R.C. v Walley) that has been in place for about 16+ years - so any child who is in DHR custody, or could possibly go into DHR custody, and has any type of disability (mental, physical, etc) is a member of the R.C. plaintiff class and is therefore, our client. I would venture to say that most (if not all) states have serious problems with their foster care systems, I just happen to be seeing the system in AL. I have researched other states and many of their systems have much more significant problems, while others have less.

What I can say is that I am thankful for the fact I was raised by parents who could take care of me (and are still together after 40+ years). I am a big fan of Jonathan Kozol's books (Savage Inequalities, etc) and from teaching I knew that there were children falling through the education system (I'll talk about that in a later post), but to see the children in the foster care system and how hopeless many of them are, just breaks my heart. I think back to what my "daily concerns" were as a child - which ribbon I would put in my hair, who was taking me to soccer or volleyball practice, how much longer I had until my piano recital, etc. Then I compare that to what these children deal with every day, like will DHR give their foster parent money to buy them more than one pair of shoes, when their next counseling appointment is and will DHR continue to pay for it, or when (and if) they will ever have a permanent home. It makes advocacy, and my possible career paths as an attorney, take on a new light.

Those are my thoughts for this afternoon. I am having to post from the UA library since I didn't want to pay for internet access at the house I am renting. This is working out okay, except for the fact that they have what they call "limited" air conditioning for the summer hours - which when the heat index is 107 like it is today - you may as well say "it's hot as hell in the library today"!

(and I'm also supposed to be studying for the MPRE, but the review book is putting me to sleep - or maybe that is heat related also!)

Presidential Power

Today's New York Times has a good editorial regarding presidential power. Check it out at

Thursday, July 13, 2006