What is this?

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.

Map of Southeaster United States

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.

Background on the towns and this project is available under the about tab above.

Click here for bios of the reporters and media producers who have worked on the series.

How you can help


Get the latest stories, journal entries and images via RSS subscription.

DIAMONDHEAD, Miss. –- Everybody has a Katrina story in the cities of Bay St. Louis and Waveland. Most people are homeless, or at least forced into trailers or relatives' homes. They are frustrated by the endless red tape and anguished about an uncertain future in a region where recovery is measured by tons of debris moved, number of houses demolished and businesses back in business.

They are tired of FEMA trailers, tired of the bureaucracy, tired of the devastation, tired from worrying about money, their jobs and their children.

Elaine Oneto, who also lost her house, has a different perspective, wrought from another tragedy, one that, in her mind, has obliterated all the impact of the hurricane.

Her youngest son, National Guard 1st Lt. Robert Oneto-Sikorski, was killed Monday while on foot patrol near Al Haswah, an area west of Baghdad.

He leaves behind three children, ages 6, 8 and 11. Before his deployment in Iraq, the Hancock High School and University of South Alabama graduate worked as a mechanical engineer at the Northrop Grumman shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss.

Oneto-Sikorski, 33, served with the 155th Brigade Combat Team along with the children’s mother, Claire Rager, who is heading home this week on compassionate leave.

"My house is not salvageable," Elaine Oneto says matter-of-factly Thursday, sitting outside her sister’s home in this community near Waveland and Bay St. Louis. "I’m having the Corps [of Engineers] demolish it. I had it for 16 years. It wasn’t much, but it was my home."

She has distanced herself from Katrina and its impact. All she owns was in her car when she fled the city before the hurricane. "Possessions, things, material things, they are just so temporary, and transitory. They really are not that important," she says.

Now the mother is mourning her youngest son, recalling the conversation they had last Friday about his scheduled return home in December and his plans for his children.

"He was going to buy a home, make a home for them and they were going to go to Disney World. They were going to have the best Christmas they ever had," Oneto says, choking back the tears. "They were just everything to him; he just loved his children."


Email this EMAIL THIS


Those people made sacrifices beyond believe.Loosing her home then loosing a son should make the Government think about priorities. It certainly is not the war in Iraq it has to be the voters in the
United States.

God bless you and your son’s family, I thank you and your son for his sacrifice for my freedoms. My words will not take away the pain, but your son and to all the other men and women who serve our great country, you will always be in my heart and thoughts.

God Bless

I am a soldier, I fight where I am told, and I win where I fight.
- General George Patton Jr

I am so sorry--I am so sorry for all the families that have lost loved ones, not only in this war, but in all our country's wars. How can we as a nation repay these families? Well for one, we must insist that our warriors are given the newest and best equipment. We MUST-not should, but must ensure they are taken care of if when they return home. We must ensure their children get every educational benefit allowed. Their children should be the first minority given job or educational opportunities. It does not matter whether you are for or against wars. You are aalowed to dissent because of their blood and/or contribution and therefore must thank them, not only with words but by insisting our elected officials honor them and their families the benefits they so richly deserve.

Your words are heartfelt. I pray for your peace and comfort and your restoration. Your son's sacrifice has, in part, assured our continued freedoms. We all share your grief and your pride in him.

I can only join the others in saying how lucky we are having young men like your son protecting the citizens and interest of this wonderful country. We are all so blessed. I would be interested to know if anyone has set up a fund to assist this family in the future. Please let me know by posting it on this website.

To the Orneto-Sikorski family, I offer my deepest sympathy and respect. Your son's ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten. Our country's continued Democracy will be forever reminded of the loss you and countless others have incurred. Robert had a job to do on our behalf and for that we are grateful.

My words or sorrow will never replace your lost.
But this is from a person who really has a heart, something that our politicians do not have. I hope that as each day that passes, it will get easier for you, but I know for a fact, that it will not. Your family has paid the ultimate price, I hate politicians, and I hate the position that they put your family in. But let me tell you this, that your son is now in the heavens, watching over you..Remember all the good things about your son,
and remember all the good times that you had with him. Cherish your memories, and this is something that no one in the world can take away from you. Do this...make him a star, with his name, color and laminate it..punch a hole in the top, and put it on your christmas tree. This is going to be a reminder of his kindness, and of him. You can even put his picture on your star, and laminate it too..Good luck to you and your family, and thank you for listening.

I agree that material things are so replaceable, when you measure their worth against a life. I do pray for God's comfort and restoration in your life and the lives of all who have lost so much.

I can not begin to imagine the terrible loss and pain you feel. My daughter's fiance' is in Iraq and everyday I feel like I brace for the worst. I am sure your courage and faith have been tested. Know that I as well as many other appreciate the tremendous sacrifice of your son and his family. My heart goes out to you and his children. Words seem so inadequate. May God be with you and may Robert watch over you and the children from above.

Though your losses have been great, just remember you are not alone, complete strangers mourn your loss as well, and when you feel that life has no lemonade left to give, someone will walk up to you with a fresh pitcher. Your son was a brave man who lost his life in combat, and is still held in the highest regards to this nation. May your life be filled with love and laughter from here on out.

Our deepest heartfelt sympathy is extended to you and your family. Our son recently enlisted in the Army - he will graduating from boot camp within days of his father's retirement from the US Navy after 20 years of service. There are no words that can comfort the loss of a child, but please know that you and your family will be in our family's prayers as we continue to ask for God's protection of all of our soldiers serving at home and over seas. God Bless

My youngest son is in the Army reserves and is training this weekend as I type. He is currently in college and joined in order to to to college. I'm at work and my heart is breaking for your family. I am divorced from my son's father who is active duty AF for ove4 25 years, 23 I was a military spouse. You and your family will be in my thoughts and prayers, God bless you.

Our sincerest heartfelt condolences. My son is also a soldier; however, he has just returned from his tour in Iraq. We are praying for you and your families during this time of grief. The Lord is faithful and we pray His peace upon you and your families. Please let us know if any funds are set up. We would truly love to help.

My family and I will remember you and yours in our prayers. Your son gave the greatest sacrifice (his life)and that will never be forgotten. I have a son also who is only 6 and I can not imagine the pain you are suffering but know that now your son is in a wonderful place and is watching over you and his children. God bless.

I keep reading 'there are no words'. There aren't. The depth of this sorrow cannot be spelled out. What I can tell you is there is honor in his service. This war may not be honorable, but your son went. And fought. And did his best. At some point, you will begin to feel that pride. It will not take the place of his face. But for you, for his wife, for his children, what a legacy to leave. An honorable hero. Long after those in power depart office, your son's heroism will live. And be remembered. A friend of mine in Iraq sent me this and I pass it to you. Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway. In my opinion, Robert stands tall in the saddle.

My family's heart-felt condolences and prayers are sent to you and your family at this difficult time. Your son was a very selfless and courageous soldier who answered the call to protect all Americans in this land of the free and the brave. He will always be remembered.

i am a wife of a gulf war vetren i have been in your shoes not knowing when where how he will be returned to me....months went by and he finally came home only to be sent back a year later he came home a second time, feeling blessed to return a second time he was able to get out before his third tour. Thankfully he did because we would not have our two children today. i feel for you and you famlies or past present and future. You are in my prayers and thoughts daily.

Ms. Oneto, I am so very sorry for your lose. There are no words that I can say to make you feel any better. Just remember that if you let him God will give you the comfort you most certainly need at this time and in the future. I want to thank you for raising such a wonderful person who would risk and ultimately give his life for those of us in his country! He will never be forgotten for his sacrifice! God bless you and the rest of the family!

My tears are with you, I wonder we get through it all, strenght I guess.

My kidz, Gi and Ricky mean the world to me, just as your's to you. Worry and fright carry little, love carries all.

Your baby, my friend is in your heart forever.

Peace, Linda Pierson "The Colorist Painter"

Our thoughts and prayers are with your and your family. No words can take away the pain that you feel. Your son as well as so many sons and daughters have done so much to protect our freedoms....

I wish your family peace and comfort in the memory of what a fine man Robert was. I thank him so very much for helping me keep my freedom; which so many take for granted. I cherish all the servicemen and women and pray for a world of peace. May you find some comfort, knowing he is in a better place now.

May the whole world wake up to the sacrifice your family has made on behalf of us all. I have heard that the death beneifts and future support payments are very low for the families affected by this tragedy. How can we help your 3 grandchildren? If the government won't take care of them (financially) then we all must band together and do it ourselves.

My deepest heart felt sympathy goes out to you and your family. I am the wife of a Marine currently in Iraq and my heart mourns with you. We (families) live day to day in fear of the knock at the door. I cry for your loss as with every soldier lost. You son like so many is a HERO!

May God blessings help you through this terrible time of loss. My family and I will pray for you and for all of our valient men and woman of the armed forces.

My deepest symphathy is sent to you. I know that god will guide you through this. Just remember your son with the smile that he would always have for you and as everyone else I thank your son for my freedom and for fighting for us. May god bless you and all your family!

Comments for this post have been closed.


Trackbacks are links to weblogs that reference this post. Like comments, trackbacks do no appear until approved by us. The trackback URL for this post is: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b0aa69e200d8349d941269e2

More Rising from Ruin

Story tips?