Above:A 360-degree photo shows a rusted boat and other wreckage at Bayou Caddy, a port west of Waveland. (John Brecher / MSNBC.com)

About this project

In the coming months, MSNBC.com will focus its coverage of the Hurricane Katrina recovery on two cities on the hard-hit Mississippi coast.

Coastal Miss. vicinity

Though Bay St. Louis and Waveland are far from the media spotlight on New Orleans, the intertwined fates of the people, businesses and institutions in these towns tell the story of an entire region's struggle to recover from the most destructive storm in U.S. history.

Read about the towns

Taking things day by day

Posted: Thursday, November 3 at 05:05 pm CT by

(Editor's note: This post is from an e-mail Maria Russell sent to her friends and family on Sept. 9.)

Now it’s Friday, and we are in a campground in Robertsdale, Alabama. Dave and I don’t really know what we’re going to do next. We’re just taking things day by day. Right now we’re just exhausted; mentally, emotionally and physically. But, all things considered, we’re fine. Thank God we have the camper and a reliable vehicle. We feel like we can go anywhere, and yet we don’t know WHERE to go. Isn’t that an ironic situation for gypsies like us?

We will keep ya’ll posted. Thanks to everyone who have offered us a place to stay … had we known it was this easy to spend a week here and a week there, we might not have plunked down the money to buy a house.

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The first time I really felt Hope

Posted: Thursday, November 3 at 05:00 pm CT by

(Editor's note: This post is from an e-mail Maria Russell sent to her friends and family on Sept. 7.)

Our friends from Knoxville arrived, not only with a trailerful of supplies, but with the announcement that a television crew was en route with the sole purpose of focusing on Bay St. Louis. It seems that the media is fixated on New Orleans, Biloxi and Gulfport, but there is little mention of our little town or Waveland. This was the first time I really felt Hope. Not for Dave and me, but for all of the other people left homeless, jobless, and helpless by Hurricane Katrina.

We found the makeshift relief site that Sharon, our friend from the post office parking lot, told us about. Turns out it was a grocery store that had been in business only a few weeks. After the storm hit, the owners, Beverly and John Davis, just opened their doors to their neighbors and let them have whatever they wanted since there was no relief in sight. (The storm hit on Monday; when relief had not shown by Thursday, the police in Bay St. Louis broke into the Winn-Dixie and allowed people to get food and water. Hearing that was so unimaginable! Why wasn’t help here???)

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Before and after

Posted: Thursday, November 3 at 04:50 pm CT by

(Editor's note: This post is from an e-mail Maria Russell sent to her friends and family on Sept. 6. The photos were taken by Maria and her husband, Dave.)

Rumor was that post office was going to be bringing in trailers and try to restore business, so we were asked to move. So today we moved across the street to a church parking lot. But we liked the post office parking lot better; the old oak trees provided the nicest shade and relief from the heat of the day.

Over in our new digs we were able to disconnect our camper from the truck, and now that we had the mobility, we made our way to our neighborhood. Although we already knew that our house no longer existed, it is still a shock to see NOTHING THERE.

CONTINUED »

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Where to begin?

Posted: Thursday, November 3 at 04:45 pm CT by

(Editor's note: This post is from an e-mail Maria Russell sent to her friends and family on Sept. 5. The photos were taken by Maria and her husband, Dave.)

After spending Sunday night (of Labor Day weekend) in Gulf Breeze, Florida, we made our way to Bay St. Louis on Monday. Evidence of Katrina was seen on I-10, beginning just east of Mobile and then it got progressively worse; trees were downed, billboards knocked over, cars that had run out of fuel parked on the shoulder. Passing Biloxi, we spotted big boats high and dry, in the middle of nowhere. The damage was more severe the further west we headed, and when we got off at Exit 13, Bay St. Louis, the reality hit us like a ton of bricks.

CONTINUED »

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Terri Johnson: So close to her dream

Posted: Wednesday, November 2 at 11:15 pm CT by

WAVELAND, Miss. -- Terri Johnson loves her city. A third-generation Wavelander, she works in the sheriff’s department while she and her husband raise two teenage boys.

Terri Johnson stands in the ruins of her Waveland home after it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  Click 'Play' below the image to hear Terri talk about her dream home and to see where she hopes it will be built.

She says she wouldn’t live anywhere else, even after Katrina pummeled her family home, flood waters wrenching the seven-bedroom dwelling 10 feet from its base, wiping out memories and her life’s possessions.

CONTINUED »

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Farewell to one-armed bandits

Posted: Wednesday, November 2 at 05:49 pm CT by

In a thunderous clamor, the Pink Panther slots are eviscerated: slammed, crushed and rendered unrecognizable before our eyes.

The video poker machines also fold violently when the steel claw slams and mashes the metal into digestible pieces, then scoops and deposits the debris into a dumpster.

The Caterpillar 318C backhoe does not discriminate, ripping apart the 25 cent as well as the $1 gaming machines gathered outside the Casino Magic warehouse on Wednesday.

CONTINUED »

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Waveland mayor: Absentee accusation hurts

Posted: Wednesday, November 2 at 11:30 am CT by

Mayor Tommy Longo of Waveland says he is "very hurt" by charges he has abandoned his city in its hours of need.

At Tuesday night’s town meeting, residents asked about his whereabouts, wondering aloud whether the captain has jumped ship.

CONTINUED »

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Wildly contrasting meetings

Posted: Wednesday, November 2 at 02:16 am CT by

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- It was a tale of two cities, and two wildly contrasting council gatherings.

In Bay St. Louis, there was a sober businesslike town meeting Tuesday night, with discussion about debris, building codes and ways of raising more money for the community.

CONTINUED »

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For teachers, heavy demands in hard times

Posted: Tuesday, November 1 at 06:42 pm CT by

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- On Monday, their first day back to work, teachers at Bay St. Louis-Waveland Middle School weave their way among shipments of desks, piles of sheetrock and teams of workers on their way to a meeting in the cafeteria.

With just a week to prepare for the return of students on Nov. 7, all but four teachers have returned. For many here, it is the first time they’ve seen each other since Katrina hit. It is a bittersweet reunion. As Principal Carolyn Barcelona speaks to the group, the raw emotion is apparent. The teachers careen from laughter to tears and back.

CONTINUED »

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The un-organization

Posted: Tuesday, November 1 at 12:18 am CT by

WAVELAND, Miss.—One of the great ironies in the landscape of Katrina recovery efforts is the success of the New Waveland Café. It is, in fact, a soup kitchen, and for parts of the last eight weeks, it has served as many as 4,000 meals a day. It is still doling out 1,500 to 2,000 meals a day.

It is remarkable as much in its atmosphere as in its volume. Imagine being asked, after standing in line for dinner at a relief center, having lost your home: “Would you like walnut vinaigrette with your salad?”

CONTINUED »

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