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.