Monday, October 4, 2010

Katrina Stories

Lighthouse on Biloxi Beach
It's been a little over five years since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and changed lives forever. Most of my in-laws live in the Biloxi and Gulfport, Mississippi area. My television had just gone kaput the same weekend that Katrina was about to unleash her fury. My sister let me borrow her small, portable plug-in television to keep up with the news. Naturally, we couldn't get through on the phone lines, so we sat, anxiously waiting for any news from Mississippi. We saw the devastating videos of  New Orleans and could only hope and pray that family members were safe. On Wednesday my daughter received a text from one of my three sister-in-laws. "We're okay," was all the message said. They could text, but not call. When we were finally able to make phone contact, I made arrangements to drive down half-way to pick up my elderly mother-in-law and one brother-in-law (that lived with her). They had no electricity at their apartment complex and it could possibly take weeks before power was turned back on. Bridges were out, the coastline was gone, and people were in survival mode those first few weeks after the hurricane hit.  I loaded my car with bottled water, canned foods, cleaning supplies, batteries, extra gas cans, and anything I could think of that could be usable. People were waiting in line up to eight hours to fill up with gas, so one brother-in-law was going to bring as many gas cans home that he could. One sister-in-law lost her mobile home and another one had severe damage to her home. The second one stayed at a shelter during the storm and said it was horrific. Her husband stayed home during the storm. After it was over, with no electricity, everyone got together with their grills and cooked up whatever was in the freezer and shared with the neighbors.

One sister-in-laws works for the State of Mississippi and told us how hard it was to locate clients, because everything:  road signs, trees, landmarks, not to mention, homes, were totally obliterated. It took weeks, and in some cases, months, to locate many of the missing. My in-laws stayed with me for three weeks. I took them to the local Red Cross to file a claim, where many Katrina refugees found themselves homeless and with no place to go. My in-laws were some of the more fortunate ones, but they didn't get away unscathed.  Some lost jobs and had to find new employment. The damage to their homes took months to repair.  One sister-in-law lived with her in-laws, with seven adults and seven household pets, in a three-bedroom house, instead of the FEMA trailor they were loaned.
Slowly, the Gulf Coast recovered, but a part of the coast was gone forever. Many of the stately homes that sat on the oceanside, are no more. The casinos now sit on solid ground, no longer on the barges, as before Katrina. The lawmakers made that concession.  My husband's family still live there. One brother-in-law died the year after Katrina and I made the trip down for his funeral. He stayed with me the year before and I missed him.  I've been back a couple of times since then. A lot has been rebuilt, but there are still construction cranes everywhere you look. But the spirit of the people is amazing. Like my in-laws, they are all survivors, and with amazing grace, they go on.

1 comment:

Rita said...

We are so blessed and don't even know it sometimes. We just got all new flooring in the house and I cannot even imagine what those who went through the hurricane went through. It was a very long week getting the flooring and carpeting in. How hard it would be coming back and finding everything in your house ruined.