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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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Click ‘Play’ to hear Shirley Corr describe her ordeal with the higher cost of insurance.

WAVELAND, Miss. — Two months ago, Shirley Corr, 70, reluctantly retreated from her home here, near the beach, and went to her son’s house in Bay St. Louis to get out of Katrina’s way. It was not far enough. As floodwaters swept through that town, she ended up wading through chest-high floodwaters, holding her Chihuahua, Buffy, in one hand over her head, until her family secured a boat.

“It was a horrible nightmare,” she says. “I tried to never talk about it again. At least we survived.”

Having escaped with her life, she is now wading through the system, trying to figure out how to move forward. Nothing about her course is clear, and she struggles against tears as she thinks out loud. While she most wants to return to her longtime home, the numbers just don’t add up.

Corr’s single-story home, built by her husband in 1964, is still standing in this largely demolished neighborhood, but floodwaters up to the roofline destroyed everything in it.

As she leads the way through her home, which was recently gutted and cleaned out by volunteers, she points to the porch that her husband enclosed to expand her kitchen and create an extra bedroom and the shelves where she kept her angel collection. “I had hundreds,” she says.

This is where she raised four sons, prayed, fed the squirrels, tended her beloved amaryllis, prayed and said a final farewell to her husband when he died eight years ago. On the lot behind the house, there is no sign of the barn where the family once kept a pony. Her sister’s house just up the street is demolished.

Relief workers have politely stacked soggy memorabilia outside the front door, including family pictures, a doll-sized high chair, a Green Bay Packers tee-shirt autographed by local boy-turned football hero Brett Favre and a sodden magazine commemorating Elvis Presley.

Corr picks up a white vinyl bag that she can't open because the zipper has rusted. “These are my husband’s funeral items,” she says.

She is deeply attached to this place, but there are many obstacles to returning. Cost is at the top of the list. Corr will get little in the way of homeowners insurance, since it covers only damage above the waterline.

Fortunately, she did carry some flood insurance — about $42,000 worth. But how far will it go? At the moment, it isn’t clear whether any part of the house can be salvaged, given the mold and rot that have taken hold.

And her insurance agent warned her that if she does rebuild, rates for this area are going to be sky-high — probably unaffordable, she reckons, given her fixed income of $800 a month.

The reality Corr is facing is an unfamiliar one — being forced to rely on family, friends or the government for help. When this area was hit by Hurricane Camille in 1969, there was flooding here, but her husband was alive, and able to do much of the repair himself. She was much younger then, and always willing to roll up her sleeves.

“I know plenty of people who depend on other people. I’ve never been that kind of person. I do for myself,” says Corr. “If the house needed painting, I’d get out there and paint it.”

For now, the government isn’t even allowing residents to put their FEMA trailers on lots in this neighborhood, because the entire infrastructure — sewer, electrical and water — were ripped out by the floodwaters.

Last week, seven weeks after Katrina hit, Corr received a FEMA trailer, and has it parked about a mile up the road, in the yard of her youngest son. He’s not there though, because his house is also uninhabitable. He is on the wait-list for a trailer.

The trailer is tidy and livable, and now equipped with a new television and coffee pot. It's comfortable enough for her and Buffy. They even have a yard ornament — a concrete goose named Lucy that survived the flood — posted outside the door.

It could be a lot worse, she knows. There are people still in tents, who have no insurance, or no family. There are for sale signs dotting the neighborhood, and she knows that some people with unpaid mortgages will have no choice but to sell.

But Corr is a determined woman and doesn’t seem likely to give up on returning to her home easily. She has been back to her property often, to trim the bushes and mow the lawn, both of which have actually started to turn green again after the salty floodwater apparently had killed everything. And on Thursday she applied to the Army Corps of Engineers to have all the debris removed from her lot.

She relates a conversation she had earlier in the week: “Someone said to me: ‘How old are you? Why don’t you just spend the rest of the time you have in the trailer?’” Corr was incensed at the idea. “I plan to live awhile,” she says.

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Shirley Corr is one of those incredibly strong women who have woven their tears and determination into the fabric of our country. These women have shouldered tremendous burdens, overcome huge obstacles, and worked rather than complain about their present circumstances. She sees a brighter day. Her spunk inspires those of *** ages.

This is kinda sad!! Im happy that we didnt have to go through this! All i have to say is believe in god. He'll work it out for you.

Hang in there Shirley. I am only 24 years old, and I admire the courage of my elder generations. You are such a strong woman. You are not complaining, just making the best out of a bad situation. Thank you for your willingness to overcome all of lifes obstacles. Afterall what doesn't kill us will only make us stronger!

What an inspiration. There are times that we all are tired of "being strong" and I'm sure that "why me, why now", has been used by Shirley. She could, and no one would fault her, say: I give up. I'm leaving and relying strickly on my children. What an awesome story of progressive thinking, urgency of independance, and all inspiring for all of us. She will be in my prayers.

God Bless You.

Sorry for your loss... I can't imagine what that would be like. Stay strong, you sure are an inspiration to me! God bless you and keep you strong and you'll be in our prayers! :)

I just can't believe that some State Farm Insurance agents in the area told people they didn't need to have flood insurance on the upper levels (second story) of their homes. Now homeowners insurance isn't paying for houses that were totally destroyed, and flood insurance won't cover the upper levels. My grandmother is to old to fight the insurance company, and will never see the money she paid into the insurance for the service. What do we pay insurance for?

Shirley, trust God, and He will work out the situation for you, in the meantime though, do what you can to help yourself. I sure pray and hope I'm as strong as you when I turn 70 years old. God bless you.

Shirley: My heart bleeds for you. My own Mother is also as independent as you have been, and it is just plain sad to see where you are at this stage of your life, when you were comfortable and settled and looking forward to many more years in your beloved home. I wish you and Buffy and the rest of your family, friends and neighbors all the best.


What a trooper. Keep on fighting for your rights. I would hope that advocacy groups would start to form to help out people in this situation. Anyone out there?????

Shirley, everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it is not something that we want to happen but that is just how God made things. I hope that everything goses well for you and your family and every single one of you is in my prays. God Bless

Ms. Shirley please check and see if you can find a modular home to set on your lot. I don't know how much those are but, I have seen them put on vacant lots, landscaped and ready for move in within a week. Nice and clean, energy saving and would get you out of the mold and mud plus help you get settled in quicker. God bless and keep you safe.

My son has travelled from Nashvile to Bay St Louis 2X w/several other volunteers and he says the story is not tellable. No stores, no laudrymats, no HomeDepot, no grocery stores, no Ace Hardware. Nothing with which to sustain life other than determination, will, strenth and prayers - and a dependency on others for the first time in many of their lives. As a family, we plan to return to Bay St. Louis Dec 27 for several days and give whatever support and help we can offer I, too, am almost 70, and blessed w/much the same attitude and aptitude. It will be a joy to meet w/you in person. I lift you for continued strenth and good health. Sincerely, with wishes for new and wonderful blessings each day. Sincerely,

Shirley, it is obvious that you are a true survivor, my mother is just like you. Keep your head up and stay in prayer as Im sure you have been. You and the many people like you, who have lost so much, will be in my prayers!!!

I sympathize with Ms Shirley. I also sympathize just as strongly or maybe more so with the Pakistanis who don't have the same kind of socio-economic infrastructure that Ms shirley has to fall back on and are homeless, freezing, hungry and in pain in the aftermath of their own much more uninsured natural disaster.

A group of volunteers from Cypress United Methodist Church in Cypress, Texas will be in Waveland, Mississippi over the week of Thanksgiving in order to assist in the rebuilding of this town. God bless this town and those whom live in it.

Shirley, my dear angel. I am in my 50's and have never gone through more than a terrible blizzard in Michigan. So I cannot begin to conceive what you are going through. However, you sound like a real fighter and people like you always fall on their feet. So I will keep you in my thoughts and hope there is a time in the near future where your story is followed up on; that mine and others loving thoughts will (the seeds of your inspirational story)be able to know how you fared. I send all of my love and prayers to you, Shirley. Keep on-- until you get your situation accomplished the way YOU desire it.

Dear Shirley... you are truly an inspiration to all who read your story. I will say a prayer for you... and I believe the God does give to those who are good of heart. Our good wishes to you from my family in Massachusetts.

Sometime I have learned is that stuff is just stuff. It accumulates all over again when you have lost everything. I have also lost everything, under different circumstances, but everything is gone. Stuff continues to accumulate. What can't be priced is our lives, and the love of those about us. Give yourself a big hug, girl. You have survived. You will go on.

My prayers are with you. I experienced Ivan over a year ago and I am still not back in my home. I have suffered a stroke due to the stress but feel like I need to get back in my home and I will get there. You are a strong lady and deserve peace in your life. You are in my thoughts.

My prayers are with you. I experienced Ivan over a year ago and I am still not back in my home. I have suffered a stroke due to the stress but feel like I need to get back in my home and I will get there. You are a strong lady and deserve peace in your life. You are in my thoughts.

What a nice lady, and America, please know that there many other wonderful, hard-working people in Mississippi. I've read some to the comments to other stories on this site with pain and sadness. I hope none of the people making the cruel comments ever have to go through something like this. They seem to forget that most of these people have lost their homes, their jobs, their churches, their clothing, their towns, and even friends and family members. The stress is unreal down here.

There are more angels praying for you than you can ever collect, but I understand - I too collect them. I'd love to send you a few but I fear that right now it would be just be in your way. I am so pleased that your chi-chi survived, I know you love her and right now you need each other. You are in my prayers and in my heart

My family and I sat and watched our TV day after day and could not imagine being in your shoes. You are a strong woman with a will to make it. Stay strong and trust that you have millions of people keeping you and others there in our prayers.

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