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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre says his biggest regret is that his city can’t adequately express its gratitude to the volunteers who traveled to Mississippi to help.

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- "The calm at the center of the storm" is usually used to describe the eye of a hurricane, but it could just as well be applied to Eddie Favre, the quietly effective mayor of battered Bay St. Louis.
From the moment that Hurricane Katrina pounded his historic town on Aug. 29, the 51-year-old Favre (pronounced Farv) –- or just plain "Bubba" to many of his constituents -- has been wrestling with the myriad difficulties that come with the loss of virtually the entire city infrastructure: urging on the depleted city work force to restore basic services, pleading for state and federal assistance and coordinating relief and rebuilding efforts with the county and neighboring Waveland.

But despite the long days of difficult decisions, the five-term mayor has remained positive in his typical low-key fashion, and accessible, holding weekly "town hall meetings" outside temporary city offices at the old train depot to update residents on the latest news on the recovery efforts and urge them to keep taking "small steps forward."

"It’s just been easy to stay upbeat about it," he said. "I see the attitude of our people and it’s easy enough to follow their lead."

A divorced father of two grown sons and a distant cousin of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, the mayor also has no trouble empathizing with what the townspeople are going through: Like most of the 8,209 residents, he lost his home to the storm.

But despite the fact that virtually all his possessions and memories were washed away along with the house that had been in his family for generations, he is able to joke about his loss.

"Where my house was … I can go out and sit on my slab and there’s nothing blocking my view," he said.

Favre, who says his roots in the area run all the way back to its discovery by French explorers in 1699, also took a self-deprecating swipe at his wardrobe – an untucked golf shirt and khaki cut-offs.

"This is sort of what they call Eddie Favre casual," he said. "It used to be out of choice, now it’s out of necessity."

Kidding aside, Favre said he considers himself "blessed" because his lot was scoured clean by the surge’s tremendous power, sparing him from having to come home to a house filled with ruined possessions and tarnished memories.

"It’s not … here’s my life piled here in front of my house," he said. "… And I know how hard it is. They have to look at it every day until the debris is picked up and they have to think about it every day."

Favre also has won fans by insisting that he will fight to preserve the character of the core of Bay St. Louis – the old Main Street corridor that was home to most of the city’s historic buildings and its thriving art community – and by holding the line against coastal development, i.e. condominiums.

"An extra development right now is not going to make or break our city budget. It’s already broke," he said. "So a high-rise hotel that may come in and destroy what once was, the values of what we once had … we’d just as soon not have it."

If there’s one thing that knocks Favre off stride it’s talking about the police officers, firefighters and public works crews who worked non-stop for days after the storm even though many of them also were homeless, and the townspeople who have rallied around him and them.

"I thought we had a good crew before, but it really brought out the best of them," he said, his voice growing thick with emotion.

"… And our people here in town, too. Like I said, we had people that lost everything, and all they were interested in doing was helping their neighbors.

…"We talk about heroes and there will be a lot of stories told about a lot of heroes once this is settled down somewhat." 

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Dear Eddie,
I loved the bay, I lived there for almost 4 years. I don't really know how to get ahold of you except through these means. I miss living there. I lived at Pelican Point apartments, and I worked at Mcdonalds. The police were decent to me, and the fire department rescued me many a times from the seizures I had. I wanted to express my gratitude to you for the years that I stayed in the Bay. I'm sorry I'm not coming back. I just lost too much, its too painful, and I don't want to lose it again. Plus I want to persue a chance to be a Vet. which I can adequately do here in Jackson.. Perhaps I will return to the Bay and open up a clinic once I am certified. Keep up the good work, and tell everyone down there that I miss them and thank you..
Mcdonalds Tara (fat and sassy red head in back drive thru)

I think we may be related, my Grandmother & Grandfather lived in The Bay for years, he was Octave & she was Caroline Favre, they lived on St John St. at 144, raised 5 children, he was a builder, built most of the houses on that street.

Hi Eddie....I've been wondering if you made it through the storm and how you are. I can see from your picture that you look wonderful! I know how proud you are of your friends and neighbors. Keep up the good work....Jessica

To Mayor Eddie Favre,
Sir, your graciousness in your expressed gratitude is so typical of what I experienced as a Disaster Response ARC volunteer. Even amidst your tremendous loss. Stay strong for yourself and your people. All you all are not forgotten! I was in Hattiesburg some weeks ago and we saw folk up there from your area and Waveland, Gulfport, Biloxi etc. On an afternoon off we came down that way to document photographically what was experienced. ARC volunteers are telling your stories and reminding other Americans that all of that area is going to need assistance in the building back process. I continue to tell your stories and seek out media that will keep you all in our consciousness until you are recovered! God bless and keep all!


Hi there. We too are distant cousins. My great-grandfather, Beauguard Favre,from Kiln. You are doning a GREAT job. Please hang in there and know we here are praying for you too. We did ok here in Gpt.
God Bless,
pat favre elliott

Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you guys. Gary has my #... need to escape please come up to visit...Rethea

Mayor Favre,
We are located in Bay St. Louis running a PDC (private distribution center) out of the Bay Plaza and without your help....many, many, many people would have suffered. You facilitated the doors opening for thousands of people to get supplies that were vital for survival. We want to tell you publicly....THANK YOU, SIR!!!! Keep it up and May God continue to bless the works of your hands!!!!
Patricia Myrick, Michael Smith and Jessica Beane-Hattiesburg, MS and now new residents of Bay St. Louis, MS.

Mr. Mayor-

I want to tell you that it was an honor to have been involved with some small part of helping rebuild Bay St. Louis...a town I didn't even know existed before I drove into it and found "Disaster Corps" forming a volunteer camp there. I was the first volunteer to show up and camp in Big John/Jan's yard on Main Street and was really happy to be able to help get the house cleaned out. I'm still sorry I wasn't able to stay and do more. By the time I left there were several more volunteers there and Stephanie and Betsie had met with you. I was sorry I didn't get the chance to meet you, Jan (and everybody else) had only the best things to say about you and I *know* that's a great community who will be back stronger than ever. As my Governor is so fond of saying...I'll be back!

Random volunteer from California who found Bay St. Louis to be "just right" for helping.


Dear Mayor Favre,
The community of Bay St. Louis holds a special place in my heart. I was among a team of four amateur radio operators providing emergency communication from September 6-13 for the Senior Center Shelter on Bookter Street across from the police and fire department. One of the Bay St. Louis heros is Arlene Johnson who managed this special need facility. She went beyond the call of duty.

I have a uncle in Bay of St. Louis who is a dentist and have two offices around the area. I came down there to visit him a couple of times and I always thought that it was a great city. Hearing that my uncles house(which was on the beach) was gone and that the same city that I came to visit is devastated. I would like to come back to a rebuilt city where my uncle use to live(lives in Florida now) and go fishing on his boat again. It broke me seeing the city almost gone.

Dear Mayor,
I have a uncle in Bay of St. Louis who is a dentist and have two offices around the area. I came down there to visit him a couple of times and I always thought that it was a great city. Hearing that my uncles house(which was on the beach) was gone and that the same city that I came to visit is devastated. I would like to come back to a rebuilt city where my uncle use to live(lives in Florida now) and go fishing on his boat again. It broke me seeing the city almost gone.


I kknow your deceased father, my '44 classmate at St Stanislaus, and your wonderful mother, are proud.

God bless you.

Dear Mayor Eddie- Just know we are praying for you and our friends on the coast, and know y'all are not forgotten here! Keep the faith!

Thoughts of Bay St. Louis

There is a beach that hosts a sunset and a warm and gentle breeze.
It lingers there and reminds us of days of joy and ease.
Days that we all cherished in a place that was so sweet.
Where life was soft and easy like the sand beneath our feet.
Days we filled with nothing but the need to have some fun.
To bask in God’s creation while we sat beneath the sun.
A place that was a haven from the hectic pace of life.
Where calm set in and slowly smoothed away the stress and strife.
The moss draped Oaks surrounded you underneath a clear blue sky
And lazy days to enjoy this view as time passed slowly by.
The sun still sets at the completion of each golden sun drenched day
The breeze still blows to beckon us to return again to play.
And return we will with hearts full of hope and treasured memories To the Bay that we love, to the life that we knew, to enjoy again the breeze.
Laurie Laville 2005

Mayor Favre,
I wrote that poem for my mother-in-law Anne Mestayer Laville. We lost her home on Rameneda. We went there Saturday to try and mark off the trees and save them if possible from the bulldozers that may help clear what little debris is left (second home back across from Millie's). It was heart wrenching to see the most beautiful little town in the world so devastated. But reading your message about your plans bring it back to the same charming quaintness gives me hope. God Bless you and the Bay. That which doesn't break us makes us stronger.
Laurie Kleinpeter Laville Baton Rouge, LA

Dear Mayor Favre,
My heart goes out to you and your community. I had the honor of meeting two of your citizens while I was visiting a friend in Pensacola. I met Michael and Norma Jeffries while having dinner and it was a pleasure to meet these two brave citizens of your town. They showed my friend and I pictures of the devasation, images we had not seen on television. They talked about how close your community is and everyone was looking out for each other.

While I'm saddened by the devasation, I'm also feeling privileged to met two people who had gone through so much, but were willing to spend a pleasant evening talking to two strangers.

I pray that the community of Bay St. Louis is healed quickly. God Bless you all!!
Jeanette, Havelock, NC

A boyhood paradice lost...When i was young our family lived in BaySaint louis. I'm Mike ..hello mayor Favre...our house was damaged by storm Betsy and moved to Waveland. The school was great there and had many friends. Red beans and rice i hope is still being served in the lunch room. I'd spend my summers moeing lawns and fish as much as I could.I joined the boyscouts and looked forward to the campouts. Our troop rowed up the Jorden river 50 miles to get our merit badges a trip i'll allways remember. When I saw the toltal distruction in Waveland i was in shock. Back diring storm Cameal I stood on the railroad tracks and lookd down main street andthe only thing standing was the bank valt it was a long time rebuilding down town. I don't know how to express my sadness but time seams to heal things as the rebuilding mends the wounds of nature . I wish I could be there to help in some fasion. I wish you the best Michael Bush Columbia SC

Dear Mayor Favre,

I work for Alagasco....one of the companies that worked to put gas back onto your City's gas system. The week I spent in Bay St. Louis truly changed my life. You and the people of your City are always on my mind.

The following is an article I wrote for our Company magazine about my time in your City.

God bless and I hope you enjoy the story.

Alagasco and Trussville Utilities crews adopt Bay St. Louis, Mississippi resident
By Wayne Cleghorn

Alagasco employees: Billy Wilson, Jessie Posey, Byron Searcy – Montgomery, Mike Raines, Scott Gossett, Andy McGinnis, Wayne Cleghorn – Birmingham

Trussville Utilities employees - David Duffy, Jason Webb

Close your eyes and imagine a quite little town located on a bay in Mississippi. In this town, everyone knows almost everyone else. Most residents don’t even bother to lock their doors when they leave home. They know their neighbors will be looking out for them.

Imagine large, older homes on the bay. Some of the homes are over 100 years old with 50-75’ Live Oak trees covered with Spanish moss. On the 7 blocks between the bay and the main road (Highway 90) that divides this quite, peaceful town are smaller homes. Most of these homes are close to 100 years old as well. Most are well maintained with beautiful Live Oak trees.

Now imagine a 40 foot wall of water accompanied by 150 mph sustained winds and tornadoes coming across the bay and headed for this sleepy town. The water and the winds extend an unbelievable 15 miles inland upon landfall wiping out everything in its path. When the chaos was over there was hardly a building left standing between the bay and Highway 90. This is exactly what happened in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi when Hurricane Katrina devastated the once beautiful town.

On Monday, we were surveying the area hardest hit by Katrina. We had gotten out of our trucks and were walking down the street in a state of disbelief at what we were viewing. Billy Wilson was down the street from the rest of us when we heard him call for us. He was wading through a pile of rubble that was once a home and walking toward a man trying to get his jet ski out from under a collapsed garage. You may ask yourself, “Why was he worried about a jet ski?” Well, it was about all he had left. This is how we met John Lala.

What I saw after I had made my way through the debris was someone that had a look I had never seen before. Later I realized it was the look of a man who had lost everything, including two friends that had drowned and his faith in God. I had never seen a man about to lose his very soul. John Lala was as far down as a human could be.

We quickly gathered around and came up with a way to get the Jet Ski and the trailer out of the rubble. We even loaded the Jet Ski onto the trailer. When we finished, John was incredibly thankful to us for helping him. David Duffy asked if we could pray with him. John said he would like that very much. We gathered in a circle and held hands to pray. We prayed and before “amen” was said, John began to pray. He thanked God for sending us into his life when he needed us the most. He thanked God for showing him he must continue to have faith.

We left that day promising John we would return when we could to check on him. He assured us he had an air conditioned place to sleep, 3 hot meals a day, and plenty of water. Tears streamed down his face as we walked away.

The next day, Tuesday, we returned to check on him whenever we had time. John asked if we could possibly help him move a couple of vehicles so that he could get a FEMA trailer moved onto his lot. The two vehicles had been completely under water. One was pushed up against a chain link fence and the brakes were locked up on the other. We promised to return the next day with a larger backhoe to move the vehicles.

We did return on Wednesday with David Duffy and Jason Webb from Trussville Utilities with their larger backhoe. We managed to move the two vehicles and clear off a cement pad that was once his driveway. The FEMA trailer would be set up there. We asked if there was anything else we could do for him because we had “adopted” him. He asked if we could find a wheel barrel for him to help him do more clearing on his lot. We told him we would take care of it and see him the next day.

We decided right then we would pool our money and buy John a wheel barrel at Wal-Mart in Mobile that night. Scott and Andy delivered the wheel barrel early Thursday morning. John wasn’t there when they made the delivery.

That evening around 6:00 p.m., as I was heading for home, I decided to go by and see if John was at his lot so I could say goodbye before I left. When I pulled up I saw him hauling off rubble with his new wheel barrel. When he saw me his face lit up with a big smile. I walked over to him and through tears he said, “You Alabama guys! Ya’ll must love to see me cry.” He was extremely thankful for the wheel barrel and the gesture of us buying it for him. I told John I was going home but other Alagasco crews would be checking on him.

As I drove away toward my home, with all its comforts, I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a man who had lost everything. He was smiling as tears ran down his cheeks. I wiped the tears from my eyes and headed home knowing that John Lala had changed me forever.

I love your comment that you were blessed not to have any cleanup to do! I've been saying the same when asked how we fared. Just down the road from you on N. Beach,our house and yard were also cleaned off by Katrina, but thanks to Rita, we got a front yard full of other peoples homes and memories. The City, Corps, and Red Cross workers have been phenomenal and we look forward to rebuilding our dream home again. keep up the great attitude and great work.

Hey Bubba, It your favorite RV sales person. I am honored to add you to my list of friends. I told you this before, I am amazed how positive you have stayed thru this entire disater. If you ever need a little rest, there is a place in the heart of Pa that will welcome you with open arms. Enjoy your temp home. Meg G. Pa

Hey Mr. Eddie, keep up the great work. I know you'll continue to do what's need to bring our city back. I only wish I didn't have to leave, but I suppose everything happens for a reason. My heart and prayers go out to you, Ms. Terri, Jonathan, Jamie and the rest of your family. My mother, my brother, my daughter and myself made it out safely, and we're trying to pick up the peaces. Hopefully I'll be able to return home soon.
Wali Shabazz

Mayor Favre,
I spent a week with Disaster Corps. in Bay St. Louis and was awed with the kindness of your townspeople. The beauty can still be seen thru all the devastation.
Everyday I think of the work I did, but even more the work which still needs to be done. I hope to return in early May to do what I can. I urge everyone I speak to, to help you and your town.
May God Bless and protect you all. And may all continue to build.

Mr. Mayor, your town has changed not only your lives but the lives of people all over the United States. A friend and I came to Bay St. Louis the week before Thanksgiving with Hearts with Hands from Asheville, NC and the hand of the Lord is certainly in your city. Everyone was so friendly and thankful for life in general. I will never take the attitude "out of sight, out of mind" lightly again. The stories we heard and the turn-out of workers from every state has forever changed us. We drove away most unwillingly, knowing we would be going back to our confortable homes and all the conveniences - almost like abandoning a small helpless child. We have been amazed at the heart of your people. Our prayers will be with you all.

It was so sad to see the Bay as I delivered supplies to Camp Katrina. My beloved "Bay" as I rememberd, was in "ruins" with hardly anything I could recognize. My heart sank as I stood and watched the residents visit Camp Katrina for supplies, food and clothing. Camp Katrina, a new name for the KMart parking lot where I had parked my car only months before, now had a new objective... An area where residents pleasurely shopped had now been converted to an area to receive survival items. This will be a scene I will never forget and will haunt me for the rest of my life. I am proud of the success I read about and pray for all of you every day. Not being a resident of the "Bay" but visited many times with Lynn & Gary, I have a great deal of pride in the rebuilding and continued regrowth. I know it will rebuild bigger and better. My heart is with you as I read the daily updates by MSNBC. May God bless you and all the leaders of the community.

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