A year ago today, hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. It also caused damage in nearby New Orleans, but the most intense portion of the storm — and the most severe damage — occurred in the area around Bay St. Louis and Waveland, east of Pass Christian. Several members of Megan’s family lost their homes and everything in them: Granny, Marsha, Gloria, Lyndon, Buster, and a few others I’m not remembering right now.
Is it just me, or does Katrina seem like a lot more than a year ago?
In hindsight, it was fun for us in some ways. We spent our days touring the area, taking thousands of pictures of unbelievable destruction, helping dig through the debris for a few mementos, and taking trips back and forth to Mobile for gasoline and other supplies. In the evenings we returned to Melba’s house in Gulfport, where we all hung out and talked about what had happened by flashlights and candlelight, saving the generator’s power for the fans that would run all night. When National Guard helicopters landed nearby to drop off fresh water and ice, we ran to the park and watched the scene unfold.
We also met various people who had survived harrowing ordeals. Like Greg Campbell, who rescued Diane Brugger from a tree she was clinging to after her husband Tony had been swept away along with their home. To walk through the wreckage with people like that and hear them calmly tell their stories was an emotionally powerful experience that I still can’t properly describe.
The ugliness of New Orleans was most of what we heard about on the battery-powered portable radio, but in Mississippi all we saw was people pulling together and helping each other through a tough time. There were many random acts of kindness and compassion, and we never heard a single story of anyone being attacked in any way or losing anything to looters. When I got back home and saw all the coverage of the thugs of New Orleans, it pissed me off so much that I wrote angry letters to a few editors about the sleaze they sell.
Our trips to the Gulf Coast after Katrina included a lot more laughter and smiling than you might imagine, not least because we were lucky enough to not lose a single life in the family. Even Lyndon’s dog survived, despite being in their house when it was washed off the foundation and pulverized by the storm surge. Lyndon suffered a heart attack last week. He had surgery and last we heard he’s doing better. Hang in there, Lyndon — after all your family has been through, a heart attack is just a bump in the road.
The day Granny left Pass Christian, she talked about Katrina as if she were a person. “Katrina, that hussy, she took everything.” Granny’s family had lost everything to hurricane Camille back in 1969, too. But after Katrina, Granny decided that two once-in-a-lifetime hurricanes are enough for one lifetime, so she and Marsha moved to Atlanta.
Happy birthday, Katrina. You bitch.