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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.

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.

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Click here to see images of many homes and buildings as documented by Bay St. Louis resident John Wilkerson before and after Hurricane Katrina. (John Wilkerson / Special to MSNBC.com)

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- Lifelong Bay St. Louis resident John Wilkerson has provided his neighbors and MSNBC.com viewers with an amazing photographic bridge between the past and the present in his hurricane-ravaged town.

On his way to seek shelter as Katrina eyed the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Wilkerson, 49, focused his camera on a number of landmarks, presciently realizing they might not look the same when the storm clouds lifted. When those clouds did lift, he took his camera out for another round of shots.

A series of 11 photographic panels, available by clicking on the link at the top of this item, shows views of various Bay St. Louis landmarks and other scenes as they appeared just before the storm and just after. We'll let the images speak for themselves, but you can also listen to some of Wilkerson's thoughts about his photographic endeavor.

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I was married in this church, St Joseph's Chapel, 15 years ago on a perfect november morning with the windows open. What a tragic loss. I have been fortunate, however, to recover some items from this chapel while looking for household contents for a friend just down the road from this site. In fact it was my son who found the churh's Crucifix hanging in a tree. We have since reported this find to the parish priest. I have also been recently interviewed by a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who was doing a story on recovered religious relics after Katrina. It is a wonderful thing to be able to retrieve such important items from a very important part of one's past.

if these photos don't touch your heart...what will???

I grew up in the small, quiet, beautiful town of Waveland. I am 17 years old and have lived there all my life until recently. To put it simply my town has been destroyed. No human being can understand what devistation has occured until one has seen it with your own eyes. Even I myself cannot recognize streets or landmarks because of the damage; there is nothing left. I thank you for showing your support MSNBC. This is my home no matter what condition it is in. We are going to rebuild and I am going back to graduate with my friends, and play baseball for my school, and not let this storm depress my life. Home is where the heart is and I'm coming home everyone.

I was married at this beautiful chapel almost three years ago in March. I am sad to know it is gone.

I wish people would look at these images and realize that New Orleans wasn't the only victim. Do we hear people in small Mississippi towns crying racism? They lost just as much and sometimes more, but the difference is they rebuild and move on instead of expecting a handout and laying the blame on someone other than mother nature.

We have ben friends for many years, I know your love of this town. Your love shows in the forethought you gave to preserving our photos and memories in your picures.Thank you for your friendship and for these wonderful and harrowing photos.

Even though I have sought out and read/viewed as much news coverage as I could find about the impact of Katrina, nothing quite conveys ground level impact such as Mr. Wilkinson's photo essay. Forgive us who are not on scene, but I had assumed there were no leaves in the trees because of autumn; it took this photo essay for me to realize that wind had stripped everything away - and what the wind didn't take the water did. It's hard to visualize over 30 feet of storm surge plowing its way 30 miles inland, after such total destruction and total devastation, it is a testatment of the human spirit to find there are people who are still going to carry on.


My heart goes out to all who lost their homes, town and loved ones. It is very sad to see what a hurricane can do. I can't believe my eyes. It is awful!!!


I have seen much regarding the devastation that Katrina left in her wake, but this is one of the first times that I truly *understand*. A picture is worth a thousand words. Thank you John Wilkerson, for capturing this.

Each day I come to this site to see what people are doing. I am sorry some feel they have been forgotten, but please know that you are, in fact, never far from my mind or prayers. Your town was beautiful, your homes gracious, but like Josh says,
"home is where the heart is", you'll rebuild and be stronger and wiser than before. Blessings on all that you do and please continue to keep us informed!

These images are really hauting. It amazes me that the force of nature could be so distructive. The trees even where stripped clean of every leaf. Its just amazing.

I have to correct a big mistake I made when describing my photos. Da Beach house had been in business for five years.

Everyone that I have talked to, who has seen the coastal devistation in person, says the same thing..."You can't tell where one town stops and the next town starts" What a tragedy. My heart goes out to all who were affected.

I hope everyone is still praying for those who lost so much in this catastrophe. It's so easy to go on with our lives and forget about the ongoing suffering on our coast. God help us to help them!

I want to thank all the people who have put this website together. It is a effective tool. Pictures say much about reality and I just want to encourage you all to keep at it. I know you struggle everyday with things the world takes for granted. PRESS ON!! We love you and lift you to the Lord in prayer for rest and strength.

I can't put in words what I felt viewing these photos. God Bless all of you who have suffered such loss and devastation. You are in our prayers.

I am the executive director of the Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI). We are a non-profit risk management organization that assists local governments with information, training, sponsored research and grants. The before and after photo presentation made a big impression on me and I wonder if could be possible to provide a linkage to it via our web site www.riskinstitute.org. Hundred of thousands of local government officials visit our site every month and I believe this presentation will have a great impact on them. Thank you.

Wow, these are unreal. Truly gives you a horrid feeling in the pit of your stomach. You did honor in such distruction John Wilkerson.

The pictures and comments brought tears to me eyes. I thought I was through crying. My heart goes out to all the victims of the storm. I will again, and always appreciate all that I have been blessed with.

St. Joseph's was just a few block from the home I grew up in most of my life, which is now gone. I can remember going to mass, and knowing everyone that was attending. Josh is right when he says, "home is where the heart is." My heart will always be in Bay St Louis. To all my fellow Cedar Point neighbors, keep your heads up, have faith, and we will overcome this tragedy. God bless!

My statement to everyone is " 90 % of people know what happened there only 10% can fatham it". I know first hand as my chrch Restoration Life in Sacramento Ca was there in November at the First Baptisit Church which we have adopted. We were doing relief work there. When we got there being a former Marine it looked like a nuclear bomb went off there it was leveled . We worked side by side with the residence feeling the emotional hurt tearing thier houses apart. We are gettting ready to send another team of 30 people there on Dec 31. We will be going back several times as we have committed to this for the long haul. I have told everyone I know that everyone in America should go there, that is the real America where Americans are helping Americans. it does not matter who you are or your social status we are just helping each other. I have over 200 pictures and 3 hours of video tape I look at daily so that I never forget we have fellow Americans who are hurting and are in need

The Mississippi towns that were destroyed have earned my respect for not complaining and getting down with the job that needs to be done. We sent a trailer of supplies to one of these towns and the reports we got back were that the people were taking care of each other and appreciated the supplies and food. You are in our prayers.

Please send these photo's to your President, US Senator & Congressman and to the media/TV stations. They need to see that it is not just 'ole New Orleans that is in trouble! Sadly, Its all about money, race & PC politics now.
----More big storms will come.... then what?

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