Sunday, September 2, 2007

Katrina Two Years Later: the Gulf

Hurricane Katrina Aftermath: Biloxi Mississippi
All of our residents were from the places all of America was watching on the television: Gulfport, Bay St. Louis, Biloxi, Picayune and of course New Orleans.

The residents would sit around the television watching the news to see what their neighborhoods were like. It was unreal. Time after time they saw neighborhoods, their house totally under water. Bypasses were submerged, swamp boats were floating over their roofs.

We constantly worried about the outbreak of infectious diseases but we were lucky, that did not occur.

Finally they were allowed to go back to view their homes and bring back any important paperwork that may have survived. The National Guard controlled the areas. Folks were allowed to enter specific neighborhoods at 6 AM and had to be out at 6 PM. There was no power, no lights and the areas were full of debris, and safety demanded strict rules.

However, most of these towns along the coast in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama were along the same highways. That meant thousand and thousands of people congesting limited access. Our folks left our shelter at 2 and 3 AM and returned the next day after midnight. They would laugh at how unbelievable every sight was and then they would cover their faces with their hands and weep. It was a difficult day.

Many had to decide if they would ever return to home or if they would start over somewhere else in America. All were desperate for work. Some were jealous of the coverage New Orleans received because unlike The Big Easy, many of these towns received far more extensive structural damage. However, the truth was there was more than enough sorrow to go around.

My last evening in Alabama my manager was driving me back to Gulf Shores. We were a few miles from Picayune and he decided to drive over and look at what Katrina did. It was impossible. As far as you could see on Highway Ten was bumper to bumper traffic standing still. The last thing they needed was trauma tourists, we turned around. Nine month later I would be in New Orleans walking under Highway Ten. I would remember this traffic jam from hell. I would remember the client who sat on the highway pavement for two days only to have her flesh stick to the pavement when she was finally rescued. I would remember that this disaster was bigger than I could have ever imagined

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