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.

(photo courtesy of Maria Russell)

Almost two weeks ago I did something I haven’t done in a few weeks. I cried. It came on very suddenly. I was visiting family in St. Louis. My mom, my brother, my sister-in-law, and I were sitting around the dinner table after porking out on spare ribs and all the fixings. I looked around to see all of Terri’s hanging plants, china proudly displayed in the china cabinet that once belonged to my parents, and the cute Halloween decorations populating the shelves, nooks, and pretty much every available space. All of a sudden, it got to me -- that I used to have all this stuff. It is the stuff that makes a house a home.

I started boo-hooing and my family just looked at me, not knowing what to do. The entire episode — from falling off the deep end to getting it back together — probably lasted no more than 2-3 minutes. But still, I had lost it. And here I thought I was back to being normal.

I don’t think that's going to happen anytime soon. How could life be normal anymore?

Aside from going to my volunteer job at the Hancock County Chamber of Commerce — a godsend, and probably the topic of another citizen-diary entry — I stick close to home, or the slab where my home stood. Working at the Chamber is my only source of normalcy these days. It is my reason to get up, shower, and get dressed. As I drive the six miles to the corner of Hwy. 90 and Main Street in Bay St. Louis, I pass continuous piles of debris along the side of the road, waiting to be picked up and taken away. Sometimes I pass telephone workers, always from someplace else, repairing our lines of communication. Most of the time, I drive through a ghost town.

This is how I view my town these days: a living ghost town. A lot of people haven’t come back. School opened this week and only 40 percent of the students returned. There are only about four PODs (points of distribution) left where one can get water, ice, and food. That’s another topic for a diary-entry: what it’s like to stand in line for life’s essentials.

Sometimes I can’t help but laugh out loud. I am 51 years old. Dave and I were “this close” to retirement. We had it all -- a nice house, a nice boat, a nice little camper. In the blink of an eye, all of it was gone, save for the nice little camper that all of a sudden became home for five weeks. Who would have thought that, after working so hard for so long to have what we had, that it would just go kaput?

I guess I’m entitled to crying every once in awhile. The fact is it doesn’t help. But at the time — whatever the time — it feels like the right thing to do. I’ve certainly earned the right.

MAIN PAGE NEXT POST One booming business: Katrina T-shirts

Email this EMAIL THIS


You HAVE earned the right and you should not feel the least bit guilty for crying. I had a similar episode in Target the other day. They had Christmas music playing and all the Christmas stockings, ornaments, etc. out on the shelves and I realized that I didn't have any of that stuff anymore. My child's stocking that I made is gone, a lifetime's collection of ornaments (many collected from travels, some from my childhood, some precious, irreplaceable ones made by own child), all of my Christmas cookie recipes....it's all gone. I had to choke back tears right in the middle of the store.

So I guess the challenge this holiday season will be to create the spirt of Christmas without all the usual reminders and trappings. I intend to focus on the ways in which we are blessed, like having family who took us in, a community that has supported us, and most importantly, not only having survived one of the world's greatest natural disasters, but having been given (so far) over two more months to stare at my sweet baby girl's face.

May God bless you and give you strength to get through this. Cry however often you need to....this too shall pass.

Tears are normal and good for you. You deserve to cry and if it takes more than 3 or 4 minutes to "pull yourself back together" thats OK to. There is not a single person out here who would blame your tears.

God Bless You and Keep You Safe.

I agree. Tears help cleanse the soul of the trauma inside it. It's part of grief, and grief is part of the process of healing. Your community has been through an extremely traumatic event; I doubt its much different than having my dad die unexpectedly just before Christmas '03. Odd, inconsequential things will trigger a memory that will bring you sadness - let the tears out! Don't bottle them inside, or they'll rot you from the inside out. Hugs to both Maria and Karen.

Cry when you need to, just release that stress. But then remember that you will now be starting a new set of memories as each day unfolds. Things come and go, but your mind can hold so many precious things.

I too finally reached the breaking point though it was not caused by the hurricane, it actually hit three days before. The Monday before the hurricane my house caught on fire and we lost over 60% of everything. What we could save we put in storage while we lived in a hotel during our search for another house while that one was being rebuilt. The next day while moving some of our stuff to storage I was involved in an accident in which some idiot on the phone wasn't looking and ran into the back of me doing about 40mph while I was turning, sent my boyfriend to the hospital and totaling my brother's truck. The next day, Wednesday, MY car began running bad, I changed a few small things thinking the problem had been solved. Well on Friday the car blew up (threw a rod straight throught he engine block). Now THAT was the breaking point. I just cried for five straight minutes. Being a person who never cries, not even at my mother's funeral (she died from cancer two years ago) my children didn't know what to think. Then when hurrican Katrina came that following Monday and took away our hotel we were temporarily living in and some idiot set fire to the storage units where the last of our belongings on the following day you would think I would have broke again. Well let me tell you, with the strength of my children behind me I have not only been able to look forward to what is to come but to also appreciate life more.

i think you have toughed my heart like no other tell me when you want the stuff that makes a house a home and ill bring you boxes

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/6a00d83451b0aa69e200d834691ac253ef

More Rising from Ruin

Story tips?