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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.

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Hug! Hug! "How are you? How did you fare? It's so good to see you! How much water did you have? How's your house? What are you going to do?"

I know "Take it one day at a time!" That's the greetings you hear all across Bay St. Louis and Waveland wherever you go. You see people you know, some you've known all your life, and the greetings are the same.

And then you talk about what's lost, how bad the area is devastated, how the historic homes and the beach and the bridge are gone, all the landmarks wiped clean and blown away. Landmarks we are grew up seeing and passing and knowing all our lives. Like the homes along the beach, the Yacht Club, Christ Episcopal Church that was destroyed in Camille and rebuilt in its present location (and now totally gone).

We all feel the need to continue to talk with each other about it. It's like a cleansing. Especially for those of us who are natives. We lost a lot in Camille, but nothing like this. And in 1969 when Camille hit, I was only 20. Since that time, I had coveted all four of my high school annuals, since so many of my classmates lost theirs in Camille. I was proud to still have mine, and, guess what, Katrina took them. They were in the end table by the sofa that had about 1 1/2 feet of water, just enough to totally ruin them. But someone told me that if you stick them in the freezer for about a year, the pages will no longer be stuck together. So, when I build my house and get a freezer, I'm going to try it out.

So, as we go along our daily routines (changed greatly since Katrina), we hug and greet those we know and love. We talk about our personal losses, their personal losses and the losses we see around us. And it helps, really helps. Sometimes I can now joke about something that has been lost.
So, how are you? How did you do? How much water did you have? How is your house? What are you going to do? As for me, I will rebuild eventually, and it will all fall into place. But it will take a long time, and we don't want the country to forget how bad it is here. And we are so appreciative for the wonderful work that MSNBC is doing for us. And Robin Roberts. And Shepherd Smith. And many more. Just keep us out there. We need all the help we can get.

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11 COMMENTS

My father still lives in The Kiln, unfortunatly I live in Phoenix. The reason I say this is because the hugs and sentiment from these people are real. I havent found anything like it out here. The location of the Mississippi Gulf Coast makes me a Southerner, the people of the Gulf Coast and the way they raised me, made me human. God Bless you all and thank you for my life.

Mary, I try to write an article every two weeks on how the Bay is doing for our paper in Colorado. So far, they've printed every one. I don't know if anyone besides my family has come down to help or has donated, as a result, but I really hope that they have. If nothing else, at least people hear about what you guys are going through every few weeks. I lived in the Bay on the beach near Christ Episcopal church in the 70's...so you know what the home we lived in looks like now...and even from so far away, spread across the country, the storm has devastated my family. We are each trying, in our own way to get help to the Bay. My mom's Christmas letter had no personal little updates...it was about Katrina and how people could help. So keep on talking and healing and know that so many people around the country are praying for you all. You aren't forgotten...not even a little bit. In fact, we have to try very hard to concentrate on our lives and the obligations we have here. God bless you and bring a brighter and better day to the Bay.

Hi, Mary. My parents were wiped out in Katrina as well. They were members of Christ Episcopal Church and lived in BSL @35 years. They relocated to Florida, are having tough time trying to put their lives back together. They both are filled with a deep sorrow over the town they loved and the people they knew so well. I came down in Sept., spent 3 weeks hauling, cleaning, crying, sharing, and just being in awe of the devastation. Unbelievable. I tell the story every chance I get because I want people to know just how bad it was and still is. God Bless you all.

Mary, just wish i were there to get or give a HUG...

Kansas has not forgotten. We have had teams down there continually since day 20 at the Main Street Church. I will be down next week (my third trip) with 9 peple from my church. The reason I go back is I want to know how everyone iws doing. I also love doing what I call "Hump removal". People down there have the greatist attitude but on a marathon like this everyone reaches a place in their journey that is a hump they can't get over or have run out of energy and feel overwhelmed. A volunteer team of 4 to 10 people spending 3 to 9 hours on a yard or a muck job or adrywall demolition or now hanging drywall can get something done that you can see a difference. The hugs at the end of a day like that carry a emotional charge that is like no drug I have ever seen. People please don't blog here to force your political agenda by the ease of the electronic age. Get personally involved in removing someones "hump" don't dump your personal baggage down here these wonderful people need cheerleaders and workers.

One thing that strikes me is how "normal" our conversations are. It's like we're talking about what was on tv last night, or how our kids are doing in school. "Hi Joe. Long time no see. How did you fare with the storm?" "Not so good - 5 feet of water. You?" "House is gone. Where are you living?" "FEMA trailer. You?" "Mother-in-law. Well, gotta go. Take care." "Yeah, you too."

We've just had a conversation about how our lives are in total turmoil, and we might as well have been discussing the weather. I guess it's just the magnitude of the damage. And you're right, we take it one day at a time. Things are getting better for me, but it sure is slow.

you know ....with ...about...3,000.000 people livin' in the Great State of Mississippi....you would think...MSNBC...would update these blogs more often...if 3,000.000 ...don't turn on MSNBC...anymore than they are updating...it might hurt ratings....don't ya'll think????

Today I'm filled with anticipation knowing that our Disaster Response Team will be at Main St. Methodist on Thursday morning, Jan. 19th. (Paul R., I hope to meet you!) Even from so far away in CT, my childhood memories of being on the Jourdan River in "the Kill" and summers in Waveland and the Bay keep me coming back (now 3 times since 8/29) to do what I can for one of the most amazing little places on earth! I'm a hugger and can't wait to get back to those south MS hugs!

Dear Mary,
It was a pleasure to meet you on our UW-Whitewater Mission Mississippi trip!! You are a wonderful woman. I am returning in March to follow up, and am hoping to get in touch with you once again. Take care!

DEAR MARY,

AFTER HURRICANE KATRINA HIT I WAS AT A LOSE TO EVEN BREATHE HARDLY. BEING FROM THE SOUTH, SAVANNAH, GA. WE WOULD BE SCARED TO DEATH THAT SOMETHING LIKE THAT WOULD ACCUR TO OUR BEAUTIFUL HISTORIC TOWN. I VISIT MS. ALL THE TIME, LOVE THE AREA, AND WAS VERY LUCKY IN A WAY, BECAUSE I DRIVE A TRACTOR/TRAILER, AND VISISTED QUITE A BIT OF MS. AND SEE ALL OF ITS QUIANTNESSITS CHARMS AND ALOT OF THE HUGGABLE PEOPLE I'VE HEARD IN THIS ARTICLE.. UNFORYUNATELY I AM NOW DISABLE AT THE EARLY AGE OF 49,AND IF NOT FOR THAT I'D BE THERE 24/7 TO HELP THOSE WONDERFUL PEOPLE OUT. INSTEAD ALL I AM ABLE TO DO IS PRAY THAT MY FAVORITE STATES MS AND LA. GET BACK ON THERE FEET QUICKLY AND HAVE THE THE LOVING HANDS OF OUR SAVOUIR WRAPPED AROUND THEM DAY AND NIGHT, GIVING THEM THE STRENGTH TO CARRY ON, TO RISE IN THE MORNING KNOWING HE'S THERE TO HELP IN ANY WAY HE CAN. MAY GOD BLESS AND KEEP YOU AND YOURS.

OH Ms Mary,

Thinking of you and have asked about you often. We love you. We (the Benigno's) have relocated to my deceased grandmothers home in the Pass not to return to Waveland. May god bless you and know that you are in our thoughts and prayers... : )

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