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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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WAVELAND, Miss. – Hoping for a smoother 2006, the devastated Gulf Coast towns of Bay St. Louis and Waveland quietly welcomed in the New Year.

As a dense, cooling fog crept in from the Gulf, most residents appeared to stay in their houses and trailers or celebrated outside the area, with only an occasional muffled boom from fireworks to be heard.

On the beach across from Buccaneer State Park, dozens of volunteer relief workers – many of whom were from faith-based groups – stood around a glowing bonfire as the clock ticked toward midnight.

Tired after long days working in the rubble where homes and businesses stood before they were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, the gathering broke up not long after midnight, following subdued renditions of religious songs, including “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”

As they headed back to their tents for the night, Kim Newsome, a volunteer from Nome, Alaska, was in the mood to blow some stuff up.

He placed a box of so-called “mortar” fireworks on top of the large beach fire and joined more than a dozen other people gathered on the far side of the road to watch the explosions.

After several colorful blasts, the audience was satisfied and said goodnight -- and goodbye to 2005.

“It’ll burn down by morning. There’ll be nothing left,” Newsom said of the dwindling bonfire as he trudged away through the soft, wet sand.

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Thank you to all the volunteers...comes a time when you hate to see another year pass...But not this time....Hello 2006!!!

I have a friend who has been donating his time and expertise in Bay St. Louis for months. When he described the unimaginable destruction to lives and property, and the outpouring of faith-based volunteerism that's helping to put things back together, I said "Why isn't this story being reported? People need to know about this!" Thanks MSNBC for illuminating the beautiful story of people helping people. We all DO need to know about it. I'm hoping I can find a way to get down there for a couple of weeks to lend my hand to this grand multi-year "family" endeavor.

I would like to say that indeed my states coast was very devastated by this hurricane,me from columbus,ms had 70mph winds from the storm a day after it hit the coast.GOD BLESS ALL OF THEM

To all the volunteers ... you made the last half of 2005 bearable! Thank you!

I spent 7 weeks on that beach at Waveland helping cook, serve and pitch tents. I am thankful to be in a hotel in Birmingham. However I met some wonderful people from all over the country that came to help. I had been in Mobile when everything hit and walked about 35 miles to Waveland catching rides on and off. So I was part evacuee and part volunteer. Heading back down this week as police recovered my car last week. Good luck, God Bless and Happy New Year.


I spent time in Mississippi after Katrina as a Red Cross Volunteer. The destruction was imaginable, I pray each day for the families who I helped and for those I didn't get the chance to help, I wish all a Safe, Healthy and above all Healing New Year, God Bless you and God Bless America, welcome 2006.

An awe inspiring awakening to what really matters in this life. Thats how I can best describe the past 2 weeks as a volunteer for the iCare Village in Waveland. We are preparing to house a few hundred more volunteer workers this week as we look to expand the camping area. Though every volunteer family has a hard time leaving here, the stories of their impact and the unity they take back with them is clearly lifechanging. The genuine love and concern show to this community seems to be fueling the hearts of this broken town, no amount of money by itself could ever fulfill the most basic human need, to be loved.

My family and I just returned from Gulfport, MS, where we spent a week volunteering through Crosspoint Church. We were able to begin "mucking out" St. John's Baptist Church, and also put the finishing touches on a house that many volunteers before us had contributed to - culminating in moving the family back into their home on December 30. That was a happy day! So many other families, though, are still living in their cramped FEMA trailers and hotel rooms waiting for help. It was inspiring to be a part of the faith-based volunteer movement that you mentioned in your article; however, I would like to challenge the broader American community to form more volunteer groups with which those who have no church affiliation might enlist. Businesses, universities, even municipalities could sponsor and supply volunteers to help those in need along the Gulf Coast. In my experience, Katrina victims are working tirelessly to help themselves, but the task is enormous and overwhelming. This disaster provides the perfect opportunity for all Americans to return to their roots of self-sacrifice and community service in times of great need. Please use your media influence to inpire people to find a volunteer group and donate a week of their time. You will be blessed for it! God bless all of those affected by the hurricane. Hang in there!

Our team of several families just returned from a New years week in Gulfport. We gutted a home to studs, replaced a lot of structure and rebuild all new plum/mech/elec and sheetrocked out. The owner should be back in by Saturday the 7th! We also cleaned up half a dozen home sites. We are working with BayouView and St. James Baptist Churches. This makes from 3 to 6 trips for several of our team. We feel very priviledhged to come and do what we can to rebuld. Thanks to all of the region for such kindness. Our home church is Hill Country Bible Church, Georgetown. We are also being supported by Thirst No More, of Global Impact

This year for me has been somewhat sad as well. People just don't seem to want to get it, or just don't want to. There's an old saying, "they see the flood but don't want to see." I am very grateful that none in my family was greatly affected by the last storm, Rita, in our area. Nonetheless, our hearts go out to those who were and though we did our part by giving what we could to help, I feel it's still not enough. All the while, I see and hear about people abusing each other and the system. WHY?

We (long-time residents of BSL)celebrated New Year's Eve at Main Street and Beach Blvd. Bay St. Louis by toasting in a better year and have a photo to share if you'd like to see it.

hey Mimi....great website!!...continue to make the coast better than ever!!!

I just returned from a week long mission trip Kiln, Mississippi to help 3 families "mud out" their homes and start the rebuiding process. American's really need to realize that these people still need our help and our prayers. I've seen the "paralysis" that the homeowners experience while trying to "just get started" to clean up their property - it is devastating. An outside team of people can really make a difference in the initial clean up effort. If you can voluteer with some people to go and be a part of the effort, you will not regret it, you will laugh and you will cry, but most of all you will touch the lives of some very special people who really need a neighbor to come and help them. Thank you to Bayou Talla Baptist Church for saying "yes" to Samaritan's Purse distaser relief support services. These people worked to support, feed and lodge voluteer teams from all over the country that went out into the community to offer their help to the people of Waveland.


I dont know if you remember me but I am a former resident of Bay St Louis. If you dont mind, please email me the picture mentioned previously. It would be good for my relatives living with me here in Ohio to see that some sort of resembelence of normalcy is returning to the area.

just click ...on Mimi's name ...kerry....duh...even i figerred dat out

"Hello to Judy and Carl Guy from all of your friends in Williston North Dakota. Keep your faith-and know that we are with you in spirit. God Bless you and all of your friends and neighbors!"

My husband, son-in-law, and myself just spent a week with Samaritan's Purse in Kiln.... what a week! Our hearts just ache for everyone in the area and even though we would like to have done more, we could only work with three families. However, a friend of mine who was in a local flood here in 2002 said to me, "My wife and I had almost given up because we were so tired of tearing out walls and floor coverings. Then one morning a group of volunteers showed up, ready to work. We went from despair to hope in just a few minutes." That's our prayer... that we can bring some hope to a few people there. And now we are hoping to let people know here in Minnesota that the work is far from done and they can play a part, too. We just can't say enough good things about the generosity of Bayou Talla and the wonderful organizational skills and compassion of the folks at Samaritan's Purse.

We lived in BSL 23 years ago when my husband was the Alcan plant manager. We dearly loved our life there and were saddened by the news of so much devastation, We know that the fighting spirit of so many will rebuild with the strength and determination that we sensed in those we knew those decades ago. We are hurting for our dear friends who lost everything, but are going to stay and make BSL an even better place to live (if that is possible.) Our prayers are with you all. GOD BLESS

yeah, a mostly quiet news years eve. however, just a short 12 weeks later. mimi heitzmann and her husband carl were found dead in their beachfront apartment this morning. murder/suicide. these were upstanding lifelong residents of our community. and as far as i am concerned katrina victims. we have all been irreversably damaged emotionally from the loss and grief we have been enduring. we need to remember to not only focus on rebuilding material things lost. but, rebuilding our spirits.

actually, if you look at the dates, mimi and cj passed a little over a year since her post...not 12 weeks...mimi please watch over me and mine and yours from your special place

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