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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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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

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Locator_map_1BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- It took Hurricane Katrina’s wicked winds and churning waters just an hour or two to pulverize hundreds of years of history and development in the neighboring Mississippi towns of Bay St. Louis and Waveland. But more than seven weeks after the most destructive storm in U.S. history, questions about the futures of the close-knit beachfront communities aren’t close to being answered.

While no one is suggesting that the picturesque towns in coastal Hancock County won’t be rebuilt, local officials acknowledge that it will take years to repair what Katrina ripped to shreds.

“I don’t know how to describe it,” Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre said of the devastation that in some places extends miles from the beach. “… It’s just nothing but piles of sticks and lumber and people’s entire lives in one pile of mess.”

It also will take time to regain the sense of community that residents of the towns treasured. “A lot of people have left for good,” said Camille Tate, a Bay St. Louis real estate agent. “A lot of people just couldn’t stand it, came back and looked at it and said, ‘I will not stay here.’”

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The historic Old Town area of Bay St. Louis was virtually erased by Hurricane Katrina. (photo: James Cheng / MSNBC.com)

In a scene playing out in communities all along the Gulf Coast, local leaders are contemplating a massive rebuilding effort at the same time they are facing severe budget shortfalls because of damage inflicted by the storm.

“We’re being promised that there has never been a municipality that has gone bankrupt after a presidential disaster declaration, so … all we can hang our hat on is that it will be made better, we will be made whole again,” said Hancock County administrator Tim Kellar.

Kellar estimates that Katrina instantly erased more than half the county’s tax base, cut its population of 46,000 by nearly a quarter -- at least for the short term -- and left county staff with just one 1,200-square-foot office building that was safe for occupancy.

Already the federal government has poured more than $70 million in emergency aid for individual residents of Hancock County, and approved more than $10.5 million to meet the short-term needs of the governments of the county and its only two incorporated towns -- Bay St. Louis and Waveland. But all parties agree that this is merely a downpayment on a long-term reconstruction effort that will carry a price tag that no one can yet even estimate.

“(Recovery) will be measured in years, not months,” said Eric Gentry, administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Hancock County.

Residents who have either remained in or returned to their homes have more immediate concerns – such as searching for belongings in the massive debris piles or cleaning the toxic muck left in their houses by retreating floodwaters.

Many also are battling with insurance companies, which are classifying the storm surge as “flooding” rather than a hurricane-caused phenomenon.

“My homeowners (insurer) has offered me $10,000 … that’s only for the tree that fell out front and a few other little things,” said Tate, the Bay St. Louis real estate agent. “They say they don’t owe anything (on the damage to the house itself) because … it was rising water.”

Only about one-quarter of the 21,000 homeowners policies issued in Hancock County included flood insurance, according to FEMA’s Gentry.

Huge rebuilding task
When residents pause to contemplate the future, many express fears that the pressure on the economically devastated local governments will lead to approval of coastal developments that will destroy the charm of the towns and neighboring communities.

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An aerial view of the damage in Bay St. Louis. (photo: James Cheng / MSNBC.com)

“The cities and the counties need the money more than ever now to rebuild … and it’s going to be very appealing to put high-density housing on the beach,” says Ellis Anderson, a Bay St. Louis resident who co-founded the Coastal Community Watch earlier this year to fight condominium developments proposed for the area before Katrina hit.

Anderson, who like many other Bay St. Louis and Waveland residents describes her hometown in terms usually reserved for Norman Rockwell paintings, said she intends to mount a grass-roots campaign to insist that officials make preserving the charm and small-town atmosphere of the arts colony a priority in considering redevelopment proposals.

Her efforts will be complicated by the extent of the damage inflicted by the storm.

Bay St. Louis, a town of 8,209 built on the bluffs where French explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Bienveille hunted game in 1699, and Waveland, which had a pre-hurricane population of 6,674, were at the worst possible place at just the wrong moment when Katrina roared ashore early on Aug. 29. Her “eye” passed just to the west, putting the cities squarely in the northeast quadrant of the eye wall – the counterclockwise maelstrom where the winds are strongest and the storm surge most ferocious.

Though Katrina had weakened from a monstrous Category 5 storm before it made landfall on the Louisiana coast that morning, experts estimate that it was still packing winds of 125 mph or higher when it reached the Mississippi coast. But the big killer was a storm surge of at least 30 feet, with wind-whipped waves of seven feet on top of that.

Fortunately, most residents heeded authorities’ warnings and fled before Katrina crashed ashore. But some, believing they had survived the worst Mother Nature could throw at them when they rode out Hurricane Camille in 1969, stayed put and hoped for the best.

“We kept putting out a lot of warnings (but) people had ‘I Survived Camille Syndrome’ … and wouldn’t leave,” said Brian “Hootie” Adam, director of the Hancock County Emergency Management Agency.

It was a decision that virtually all of them would regret – if they survived. At least 50 people in Hancock County perished in the storm and many others – no one is certain just how many – are still missing.

Brian Mollere, a Waveland resident who fought for his life – and that of his mother’s Chihuahua, Rocky – after the torrent flattened the family-owned hardware store and her home above it, was one of the lucky ones.

“I was picked up by a 40-foot wave and pushed 800, 900 feet,” he recalled. “It just wasn’t my time to go.” His mother, who had left to ride out the storm in Bay St. Louis, didn’t survive.

Unspeakable devastation
When the waters receded several hours later, an unspeakable scene of devastation awaited local officials venturing out for their first look.

“We expected to see roof damage and parts of buildings maybe gone, but this was entire neighborhoods and entire blocks of streets … totally gone, nothing left,” said Favre, who is serving his fifth term as Bay St. Louis mayor and was among those left homeless by the storm.

The picture hasn’t brightened in subsequent weeks.

“As best we can tell right now, we’ve lost about half of our homes and businesses, maybe a little bit more … (and) probably 75 to 80 percent of the tax base,” said Favre, a distant cousin of Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre. “… Casino Magic (the biggest single contributor to the city budget) is gone for at least a year, if not longer.”

Also devastated was the town’s core: three blocks of Main Street that were home to the city’s vibrant arts colony and the scene of the Second Saturday art walk, which drew visitors by the thousands every other weekend during spring and summer.

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A cleanup crew removes debris along Main Street in Bay St. Louis. (photo: James Cheng / MSNBC.com)

The bad news doesn’t stop there: The Hancock Medical Center, the only hospital in the city, was badly damaged and is now offering limited services from a series of tents erected in its parking lot; the city’s schools, which sustained major damage, remain closed, with a target date for reopening of Nov. 1; the Highway 90 bridge that connected Bay St. Louis with Pass Christian was destroyed and will take many months and approximately $150 million to replace; a 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew intended to discourage looters remains in place; and residents with utilities are still being advised to boil water as public works crews struggle to repair a host of leaks in the water system.

Waveland scene
The situation is as bad or worse a few miles to the southwest, where the government of Waveland almost ceased to exist when the floodwaters swamped neighborhoods that had never flooded before.

Dlt_waveland_051019 In this video that originally aired on “Dateline NBC,” on Sept. 9, correspondent John Larson tours the town of Waveland with Mayor Tommy Longo.

“Our 130-year-old City Hall was gone, every public building was gone except for that fire station and the police station, but both of them had multiple feet of water in them and … were condemned,” said a visibly exhausted Mayor Tommy Longo, who is directing his city’s recovery effort from a makeshift encampment and command center atop a water treatment plant. “So we literally had lost every resource that we had – 91 city vehicles. We got an animal control truck working that we shared for about a week. I had people chasing me with dogs everywhere, flagging me down.”

The downtown area looks as if a bomb was dropped on it. All that remains of City Hall is a flag pole, a small piece of a mosaic mural depicting a Mardi Gras celebration and a plaque expressing gratitude to those who helped the city rebuild after Hurricane Camille.

While most of Longo’s attention in the weeks since has been devoted to clearing the streets using donated and leased heavy equipment, and restoring water, electricity and sewer service to as many residents as possible, he also has been able to get many city offices back up and running out of Quonset huts obtained from an Alaska company.

The mayor, who also lost his home and was forced to relocate his wife and five children to Maine, said the city is still assessing the extent of the damage, but that virtually every building gulf-side of the railroad tracks that bisect the city was destroyed, and many others on the other side were left uninhabitable.

The federal government is standing behind the embattled local governments so far. The initial $10.5 million allocated by FEMA went to cover payroll and overtime costs during the frenetic first weeks after Katrina hit. City and county officials are now preparing “project sheets” that, if they are approved, will enable them to permanently replace equipment and facilities destroyed by the storms, on the federal dime.

Gentry, the FEMA administrator, said that while the cost of the rebuilding will be steep, the agency is in Mississippi and other Katrina-ravaged areas for the long haul.

“We still have offices open in Florida from last year’s hurricanes and those will be open for years to come,” he said. “This will be a multiyear recovery and FEMA will be here throughout that process.”

Less clear is to what degree FEMA will cover the local governments’ ongoing expenses until they regain their financial footing.

“We’re not sure. We don’t have all the answers yet,” said Kellar, the county administrator, when asked how long the emergency federal funding was expected to continue. “This is our first time to ever go through this and I hope it’s our last.”

Optimistic outlook
Despite the financial uncertainties facing them in the coming months and years, city and county officials are uniformly upbeat in assessing their long-term prospects.

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A historical marker thanking people for coming to aid of Waveland after Hurricane Camille in 1969 is one of few things still standing at the site of the old City Hall. (photo: James Cheng / MSNBC.com)

“We have an opportunity that not many people get… to build a model community from scratch,” said Longo. “… We have the history since 1887 to learn from and build from.”

Jeffrey Reed, a Bay St. Louis city council member and minister of the non-denominational Powerhouse of the Deliverance Ministries, said he believes the city will come roaring back as long as the city gives residents a reason to believe.

“By keeping in contact with the people, keeping their spirits up and keeping hope alive in them, just by the fact that they’re here, the city is going to come back,” he said. “… If they’ve done something before, they can do it again.”

Many of the citizens – at least those who never left or are returning to the cities – also remain optimistic despite the scenes of destruction that greet them each day.

“There’s going to be a change, but… I’m hoping that it’s going to be for the good, that it will be a small wonderful community with small shops and a lot of artists,” said Tate, the Bay St. Louis real estate agent.

“It’s like a cleansing,” said Mollere, the Waveland man who survived a close encounter with the storm surge, describing the post-apocalypse landscape he sees from his tent and trailer encampment across the street from the flattened City Hall.

“It’s like you look around, everything’s gone. It’s like you can paint a new picture now. The town can come back better than it ever was. ... It can be the perfect little city now.”

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155 COMMENTS

The thing that doesn't make any sense is that millions of dollars is getting thrown at places like this with really know rhyme or reason to it. No talk of long term planning with the money, or how it will be evenly distributed throughout the community. Another issue is once these communities are rebuilt, the poor and homeless will be left out in the cold, and with the recent 500 million dollar cut back of food stamps and other assistance, what will happen to them?

Why should the federal government be paying so much to get so little? These people had the right and the opportunity to buy flood insurance. If they chose not to buy it, then that was a known risk that they agreed to handle. As for the federal government paying to run local governments, I say reduce the size of the local government to the new size of the local community. Everyone expects a bail out, and then a free ride from Uncle Sam. Look at the poor and the homeless from New Orleans. They are the model for what needs to be done. MOVE to Dallas, move to Houston, move to small towns in North Carolina or wherever. Pick a new community with a good economy, good jobs, good schools. Take advantage of the kind hearted citizens of the US that will take people in and give them a chance... but then you are on your own to support yourself and your family. Having FEMA on-site for years to come is a huge waste of $$$$$. There is a place for the feds to come in, save lives, clean up the debris, and then leave. This is America, those people that want to stay will stay and find a way to support themselves. Others will leave. We do not need to throw billions at this. Even worse, think of the federal spending to rebuild levees surrounding communities in New Orleans that are below sea level. Such communities are a bad idea... there is plenty of land above sea level. Nature has reclaimed these wetlands, let nature have what is hers. Human beings cannot live below sea level.

there are so much destruction around, our heart's are failing because of fear. right now just the sight of gray cloud sends person running. These destruction are showing us how fragile our time here on earth is and who is grand master of this universe. For years God and his word have been kicked out of our lives and society and now we are reaping the fruit thereof. I pray that we take a deeper look at life and return to our first love JESUS CHRIST

Agape!
Marian

I recently returned from the Netherlands a country below sea level for many,many years on the edge of the North Sea.How do they do it?
I would suggest we ask their contractors to bid on a
proposal doing it the right way in New Orleans.
If you live on a flood plain,or on the edge of a river,ocean,lake,earthquake prone zones,fire hazard zones,unstable hillsides,etc-why should we help you?[except for the first time]

Many people are worried about the cost of rebuilding these ravaged cities, but if Habitat can build homes for low incomed families and get them into homes, why can't the people of the US pitch in and assist the families to rebuild without the massive expense? The federal money should be spent to replace the necessary things like the jails, courthouses, hospitals, schools. Town halls don't have to be extremely large nor does everyone that works there have to have their own office. Building a 50' x 25' building and dividing it into cubicals for the NECESSARY personnel would work just fine for now. This building could be put to good use later, maybe as a community meeting building for clubs like 4-H, Scouts, etc. when the town is up and running and can afford to build a town hall like they want. But everyone needs to remember that if this area got hit this bad this time, it can happen again. The homes and businesses need to be replaced with stronger structures if possible. America is full of wonderful volunteers who would love to reach out and help. The best thing these cities could do is hire someone to determine exactly what each city or town needs to get back on it's feet and then reach out online to those volunteers for assistance. If a town has 3 school buildings that need to be cleaned, repaired and restocked, then reach out to other schools across the country and the outpouring will be so great that very little federal money will have to go to replace the lost stock. I hear people say that they would like to assist, but don't know how. Many don't have money to give, but do have lots of time to donate with charity drives, helping hands, etc. Why can't someone get started and compile a list of what people can do to assist instead of always saying "Give Money!"

As we move on towards the holidays (and our own busy agendas) in these days of hour-to-hour Major Headline Stories involving Washington Politics, the Economy and Iraq, let us not forget the victims of the Gulf Coast and their Tragedies, Triumphs, and Courage, just to make it through another day!

I'd like to hear from people close to the situation about what is happening to businesses, especially local ones. What is making recovery possible? What are the barriers to recovery?

I am originally from Mississippi and I have yet to experience something of great magnitude like this. I pray that God will change some of our hearts out here and acknowlegde that He is Lord and is in control of everything. I also pray that we can come together as a community and work some things out to help our fellow men. No, we should not handicap one another, but we must encourage one another to become self-motivated and self-sufficient. God bless those of you who were directly affected by this travesty. And also may there be a blessing on those who might have been affected indirectly. It's disheartening to know that some lost everything and people just don't know where to turn. Let's keep each other uplifted!

God Bless

I don't understand all this about flood insurance. It was a hurricane wasn't it? They will pay for a fallen tree, but not an obliterated house? Maybe they should have had "wind" insurance too. What a joke, and an absolute injustice.

I am in Mississippi and have seen some of the effects of this. I have friends and family that have lost homes and are looking to return to the coast. I have patients that have been displaced and are attempting to pick up the pieces along with dealing with a terminal illness. Those in this world that believe that we should not help others really should put themselves in the place of others. I agree that there are some issues with the dispursing of money and there are some of that are looking for nothing more than a handout. Do the actual needs go unmet because we are scared of being ripped off? My answer is no. Give to agencies such as the Red Cross, and Salvation Army. Use your head and be aware of the situations that do not feel right. Do not give to those who have holes in their story. As for the comments that discuss where people should live. I believe that this is a personal choice. Who are we to make life choices for others? There is some truth to making sure that you are protected by insurance, but again some people live from check to check and can not afford this that seem unnecessary at the time.

Another comment on the fiancial issues. The Welfare system was set up to assist those having difficult times to move forward. It is not being used as a way of time for some. We have tought people not to save for retirement just use Medicare and Social Security. We have tought people to live one the system and not make their own living. We have also made it finanical beneficial for some to not work and worry about daycare costs that to work and not be able to afford daycare and other needs. So why again are we suprised that some are looking to us to get them out of this? This is not related to those that are legitamate in the position of needing assistance. This is onlye directed to those that are using the system.

In all this remember, pray and let God lead you through the choices that he puts before you. If you keep him first then the choice to help others financially, or open your hearts to them, will not be a tough one. I believe it was James Dobson that told his children that he will have to answer for what he does with the situation not what someone else does with the money he gives.

I don't agree nor do I understand the "rebuilding" of New Orleans and surrounding demolished areas. It is a tragedy and it happened but it also happened 36 years ago. The Louisiana Government failed to maintain levees, that is a fact. Perhaps if Louisiana's local government used their local taxes to restore and repair the levees, the impact would not have been as horrific. That aside, my family and I work hard for our money and we live in New Jersey. I've never been to, nor do I plan on going to Louisiana or New Orleans. I disagree with my family's tax dollars which are needed elsewhere, to go to a doomed community. The reality is, they are located below sea level. You can fix, rebuild, etc. and it will happen again. It's like digging a hole and having someone fill it as you're digging, its a pointless project. I'm sure that the residents don't think that it is but prior to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, we had homeless, poor, hungry children and families who need help. Our tax dollars need to go to education, housing, food, medical, etc all over this country not in one concentrated area.

I'm a little surprised at the reactions of some of the people who have written in. I am from Mississippi and I still have a lot of family and friends there. I have personally been there and seen the destruction that this article mentions and it still doesnt compare to actually walking down a street that once had beautiful homes to seeing the house completely gone or split in two on diferent sides of the street. Why in the world would you not rebuild? Yes it will be hard but thats what makes me proud to be from Miss. and seeing how people are pulling together to not just rebuild what they lost but to help those around them as well. I know people who have lost everything that they had and are living everyday to help others. I know other people who have quit their jobs to help. Oh and to the comment about the flood insurance the insurance companies came out before any of this happened and told the people who lived on the other side of the railroad tracks down there that they did not need to purchase this for their homes and those who did are being told they only are getting a $1000 for their entire lives. Thought that would help with that confusion

I only hope that the people in Bay St. Louis - Waveland and anyone else who lives on the coast or in a floodplain learns something from this summer. First, don't build on property at risk to flooding or hurricane storm surge. Second, if you do build on property at risk to flooding or storm surges or purchase/own a structure at risk, then listen to your local officials and elevate your structure above the 100 year event and use appropriate construction techniques. Third, buy flood/hurricane insurance if your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. Fourth, if your community does not participate in the NFIP, ask why and work to make your community a participating one and then buy insurance. And finally, if you don't do any of the things listed above, stop expecting the rest of us to save you when the storm hits and to support you afterwards. Recognize that individuals choose the amount of risk they face and the actions they can take to reduce that risk.

I am someone who works in the field of disaster management, specifically flooding. It is amazing the amount of denial that exists out in the floodplains and how much homeowners will fight you when you ask them to mitigate the risk or follow the rules. They are always just outside the floodplain so they don't have to do anything.

Everyone talks about the cost to rebuild. Yes, many didn't have flood insurance, but the FEMA flood maps were incorrect and only recently were revised. Many people who didn't have insurance thought they were safe from flooding, as all the previous maps were based on the flooding & surge from Hurricane Camille, which was the benchmark for many here on the gulf coast.

What many don't see is that this area does have a vibrant economy, with shipbuilding Northrup/Grumman/Ingalls),
fishing, the arts, resturants, casnios & hotels, tourism, and the revenue which comes in from being the home to the men & women who serve our country in the Naval Construction Batallion (Gulfport) and at Keesler AFB (Biloxi). All of this makes this an area worth rebuilding.

I can attest to this as I'm from Pass Christian, MS. We moved there in Jan '05 from NH. I love the 'Pass'. I knew my neighbors, I knew the store owners, I loved my little house, and I loved the way of life and the quality of life in the Pass. We were back home last week to meet the insurance adjuster and took the time to go to the beach. I love the beach. It goes on for miles of beautiful, soft sand. It is now littered with the debris of daily life...a tv, a child's bike, a loveseat, books, a grandfather clock. You can see trees sticking up in the waters of the Mississippi Sound. And beautiful rte 90 is unbelieveable. There are no words to describe the destruction we saw. Homes which we thought would have survived, are now demolished, their foundations cracked & ruined. All the landmarks I knew on Rte 90 (save for 2 homes) are completely gone.

I'm currently living out of 2 10'X 10'storage units, as we are in Georgia until we can figure out what our insurance will (or what they want to) cover. And I'm missing my Mississippi home so much that i want to cry. But i look forward to the day when i return, and shops are open, the beach clean, and i can put my feet in the water of the gulf.

imagine any other country, and how they would deal. first thing would be SAVING all possible lumber and building matrials, stacking them, letting them dry out, then re using them. Of course we are "too rich" to do this (accompnied by MANY excuses why it cant be done.) Plus we will rebuild where it will happen AGAIN! All this and "NoBid contracts too! WOW! Are we dumb!

I find it sad that anyone could be so cold to think that OUR homes shouldn't be rebuilt. That arguement should mean the entire state of Florida and the entire US coast should not exist (forget about Hawaii - they're asking for it!). We gave aid to those in New York after 911. Was that their one chance? Next terrorist attack, they're on their own? They should expect it? There are few if any "safe" places to live in the world, free of the weather or criminal attacks. I think it's important that the entire country realize that though New Orleans is under sea level, -every- -single- -person- in the United States benefits from theriches that come out of New Orleans. My city is more than just my home since it seems that doesn't matter to some. That precious money that is more important than our homes, was in part generated from here. New Orleans has many treasures: THE PORT -AND- THE OIL to just name a few. Where are these employees to live, eat, send their kids to school, etc? New Orleans doesn't exist due to a lack of land or stupidity. It provides vital services to the country. -that should not be forgotten or left in the shadow of "wasted" money.

I have just returned from Waveland and Bay St. Louis after delivering a travel trailer to a family who was told that FEMA was not going to supply any more trailers until after hurricane season. They had been living in a small tent for 6 weeks. Many people are still in shock and mental trauma looking for pieces of their lives in the rubble. Some don't even know to apply for aid or how to get help. The communities do not have an effective plan working to organize help groups or Gov't assistance. I heard while I was there that over 1300 sub contractor workers were originally brought in to clean up the streets but were getting so much hassel by FEMA for going too far into peoples yards that many have quit. Their was so much rubble that people just couldn't get it into the required front 10 feet of their property. Even though a lot of help has arrived it will only be hit or miss until the locals require an central command Inter-faith/Inter-government organization for organizing all the groups that are there. This same concept has worked very well in south Florida last year. I am also extremely worried about the ability of these local governmemts to survive with little or no property tax revenue next year. Many people will just abandon thier now vacant property instead of paying taxes on a $500,000.00 house that is not there anymore. Every expensive house in Waveland was completely destroyed. The only ones left are lower to middle income families living further from the coast who will not be able to shoulder the tax burden of the whole area in the coming years of rebuilding.

Let's not blame the victims. The US helps other countries devasted by disaters such as this using tax dollars. Many times, knowing that we may not ever get the money back. Why wouldn't the communities affected by the flood expect the same assistance? We would have even more problems if we only expected people to live on "perfectly sound" land. We all benefit from the Gulf Coast and as such should contribute to its reconstruction.

It seems that with global warming, coastal lands are more and more at risk for weather disasters. I don't know why there is so much denial about global warming in our society. Facing a future of more hurricanes, I think a lot of coastal areas should be left to go back to nature as wildlife refuges & suchlike. Let people camp there, but don't build expensive structures. Don't a lot of communities keep their floodplains as recreation parks? Actually the coastal wetlands are sponges that are supposed to soak up flood waters; our development has sabotaged this natural process. Also, if I were living in an area like this, I'd invest in moveable housing. For instance, Yurts. They can be put up or taken down in a few hours and they can be quite roomy. One could probably get electric and plumbing hookups for them. Then, when there is a hurricane warning, take it down and load it into your truck and go. All I'm saying is, be creative and think beyond the standard brick & mortar box.

Those, particularly from Houston, who say that we should not help the victims and "write off" New Orleans" would do well to remember recent history and distant history.

Do you remember when Rita was chomping on our bit here in Houston? I made it all the way to San Antonio but it took me 18 hours to get there. And all along the way I saw people from Katy, just outside of Houston all the way to Seguin at every rest stop and gas station either exausted and lying out in the open, vulnerable, to a hurricane we thought was going to tear through the heart of east Texas.

Those people waiting for gasoline the governor promised but never came, (I know because I never saw a single Texas Army Guard fuel truck) and the people resting out in the open would have been wiped off the map. This is in a city of approximately 4.5 million. What then? Write off Houston? NASA?

What did we do about the Houston Medical Center after Tropical Storm Allison in June 2001? It looked like Venice after Allison came through. Do we write off the Medical Center, with it's premier cancer and cardiac centers? What will world renouned heart surgeons, Dr Denton Cooley and Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, do then?

Let's go back to distant history (By US Standards anyway) Do you recall the Galveston storm of 1900? Galveston was right at sea level. It struck Galveston and leveled practically the entire city. It killed, depending on who's estimate you use, between 7,000 and 10,000 people. Was Galveston written off? You can go there today and go through the historical Strand district with buildings dating back to the Civil War. There's a building there that survived a hit from a cannon fired by a Union Navy vessel.

Galveston's sea wall, built after yet another horrendous storm, was predicted to fail during Rita. Had she hit Galveston on the "dirty" side this would have, no doubt, happened.

I guess we should just write off the entire Gulf region and go back to the horse, buggy and the wood fire because most of the gasoline you in the rest of the country use is refined and distributed from either Houston or New Orleans.

Now if you want to write us off, then you should be prepared to freeze in the winter and ride bicycles to work because none of that natural gas and substantial amount of the gasoline you use will get produced and distributed without us. You doubt me? Wait 'till you see your heating bill this winter.

Now lets get back to work. There's work to do rebuilding the Gulf.

Alright, this hurricane of course as many of you guys know was a major devastation to our way of life. Biloxi I used to think was boring but this summer before the hurricane I came to realize I love this place. You will never find anything in the world like this place, the people, the communities, the history, oh the list goes on. I have friends who have lost everything and for those who say the people on the coast are stupid for living there your wrong, for those who say the government shouldn't spend money over here your still wrong, people had a way of life they want it back. Our community our city and our way of life in biloxi as well as all along the coast was great. I miss the way it used to be. School is a whole lot different. I have lost so many people. I want this community to get rebuilt to be better. I want my friends to come back. I say no matter what the cost these are people who are good...they need their live back...lets rebuild.

"God is in control". We all have an opinion and the government (local,state and federal)have opinions and decision making power about the devastation casued by hurricane katrina. However,the only real truth in this situation is that "God is in control". Continue to excercise your "freedom of speech" (because it's a good thing), but please don't forget to pray for all affected by hurricane, fire, blizzard, earthquake, mudslides, volcano eruptions,violence, child abuse, suicide, homicide, political differences,religious barriers,racial barriers, social barriers, etc. Because the only real truth is that "God is in control". That's good news.

Nature's wrath can strike anywhere. Rebuilding is the cost of living alone. More will be lost when the Bird Flue really jumps species. People look at this Hurricane and marvel that people live in these disaster prone areas. Every area of Earth is Disaster Prone. Some just take longer than others. For the ones that have a lower quantity of disasters.. the disaster that does occur often is far much more traumatic to recover from. I dread the awakening of the Yellow Stone volcanic system. Central North America has tornados, floods, and blizards every year. It's ongoing, small, and has its costs. True, Katrina and Rita were unique in their level of destruction, but that level destruction can occur at any time.. at any place. Do you want to have your hopes and dreams abandoned by society if and when it happens to you or your children or their children? Rethink the value of charity.

I live near Mississppi Coast, work there, eat there, meet alot of friendly people. We seem to give millions in aid to other Countries without a bat of the eye but when it comes to good hard working people of the mississippi coast or new orleans the people of this country seem to want to write all of us off. Sorry people not happening with or without help we will rebuild this part of the Mississippi Coast helping our neighbors in need, live and love where we live and of course wait for the next hurricane, no difference then California and there mud slides, quakes, forests fires or the mid west and the tornado season or north east and there blissards. My neighbor needs my help now something some of you may have forgotten.

I am the principal of an elementary school that has "adopted" North Bay Elementary, one of the Bay St. Louis schools destroyed by Katrina. We have been in contact with a liaison there who says nearly all was lost there. They are awaiting the delivery of portable classrooms and hope to be back in session by November 1st. Please remember the children of Bay St. Louis, as well as their teachers, during this difficult time.

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