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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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I thought I should write something, since I haven’t blogged in a while. I have nothing really useful or new to report, and I’ve been in such a funk that I haven’t felt like blogging anyway. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the positive attitude. Sometimes I just want to run away. Sometimes I want to curl up in my trailer, under my beautiful donated quilt, and be left alone for a day or two. 

Here is the current situation: Insurance has paid out (hope I don’t get any hate mail about that). Building permits are available in Waveland. Waveland says we have to go up four feet -- not bad at all. NFIP(The National Flood Insurance Program) says we should be at 11-13 feet. Again, easy to do. We’re just gonna go right ahead and put the house up more than is necessary, but not insanely high. We want to go with a modular historic-type home as illustrated in the MS Renewal Forum book, and use the bottom level for a workshop.

Here are the flies in my ointment:

1) We can’t do a darn thing until the Corps cleans off our property. They personally told me they had no idea when that would be. I guess we could use our own money to get this done, but I’d prefer not to go that route.

2)Our neighbor was a challenging fella before the storm, and now his offensive sign regarding his thoughts on looting is proudly displayed for me to wince at every time I see it. Please note that he has also taken items off of our property, and is storing a boat in our driveway while claiming uncertainty about who the owner is. We did get him to remove his van from the driveway, but only after he cursed us while we were being interviewed by MSNBC. His behavior is less tolerable than before, including the fact that he throws empty beer cans and trash into my already-trashed yard. I am seriously thinking of moving to Bay St. Louis, partly because of him and partly to get to a bit higher ground. Don’t get me wrong; there are a lot of wonderful people in our community, but I do not consider Mr. Neighbor to be one of them.

3)Looking at our street is like looking at the corpse of a loved one.

4)It can all be very overwhelming and depressing at times.

So what do we do? That’s a rhetorical question. We wait for the Corps while hoping that my father doesn’t tire of us living in his yard. Of course, he’s living in his yard as well. His house is structurally sound, but was flooded to the attic. The rebuilding of a house by a man who built it himself 25 years ago is very interesting. My Daddy sure is one tough cookie. He and my stepmother of 30 years are very inspiring to me. They just do what needs to be done. Would’ve made great frontier people. Anyway, I prefer them as neighbors to Mr. Neighbor in Waveland, so now I’m not extraordinarily eager to move back. I mean, I’m eager for other reasons, but a bad neighbor can ruin everything.

So here I am, financially ready to return (thank heaven), but far from emotionally ready. Trying to decide where to build a house. Trying to get in touch with builders. Trying to wade through all the new building codes. Trying to love my neighbor. Trying to write in complete (incomplete?) sentences. Trying to figure this mess out.

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20 COMMENTS

Heather

Having worked for the insurance industry for Katrina I was so happy to see your diary. Congratulations on getting past the second big hurdle (the insurance company and all its wonderful paperwork requirements - the first hurdle being Katrina herself).

Now, for your emotional hurdles and the worse hurdle of them all, the rebuilding process.

I just wanted to make you aware of a rule within the NFIP and its flood insurance program. Yes, raising your house will help you avoid having flood damage in the future and allow you to again qualify for flood insurance; however, if you enclose the lower level, even for a workshop, you will not have insurance for any "improvements" below the living space floor (ie: below the joists of the main living area).

If you enclose the lower level, you risk not being covered for any flood damage to that area.

Keep that in mind when you rebuild as I know we all do not want to see anything like this ever happen again to the gorgeous Gulf Coast.

And, about your neighbor, littering on your property is a misdemeanor and his boat on your property is trespassing, also a misdemeanor. Call the police, have it recorded, and shake him up a bit.

Good luck and maintain your wonderful spirit...your community is lucky to have you back.

I have believed since Day One that this is the Frontier Life.

Sounds like the obstacles have become overwhelming. Just bite them off one at a time(like anyone really has to tell you that - duh) Once you get started, I bet things will become less murky.

Good luck to you and all the rest of Katrina's victims. I truly can't imagine what you must be going through.

Heather, I am so happy to hear that you have received your insurance payment and that it sounds like it is reasonable enough to think of what to do next. I hope that you will be able to find the right path to take. Sorry about the neighbor. Think we've all seen his sign.

Thank you to the insurance person for your kind words and advice...your message reminded me that there are very caring people in this world.

I believe that we have all had neighbors like that a one time or another, but now makes it even hurt more, I'm sure. Sometimes you just can't kill them with kindness. It will not work. Sorry
We are now living in our home. We were able to close off the back where the walls are out and live in the front. We now have walls and bathrooms, hurray. We feel really blessed.

Heather, I hope that you and Steve got the Christmas Card I sent. I am glad to hear that somethings are going well. We are thinking of you here in MN

Every time I hear that someone got there insurence money , I am so Happy! My house is completely gone and my insurence company wants to give me 2,000 dollars. the long road to recovery!

Call city hall or the police and get that boat moved out of your garage and off your property. They may have a special place for the boats no one has claimed. Since your neighbor insists that it isn't his, it shouldn't be any concern of his what you do with it. It's on your property, and it's not yours, and you want it off, so move it. When you have the paperwork or the okay to move it, ask him one last time if it's his. He may even decide that it IS his and move it himself. Whether you rebuild or move, you don't need that boat in your garage. Even though you're exhausted, don't let him bully you. You will feel better when you stand up for yourself. Maybe he'll move!
Hope everything works out allright for you and everyone on the Coast.

Heather, that is wonderful news. We are still waiting on FEMA. I'm curious about the 11-13 feet. We lived on Pine Ridge Dr. and our house sat at 13 feet and was leveled. We were uninsured since we rented, and we've heard rumors that our landlord wasn't covered, though I don't know what his insurance was. Am I to assume that the height is different in an area? Just curious. God bless you and hang in there. We still are hanging in there in Florida. I agree with L. Silva, call the police. You don't need to put up with his stuff, and maybe he'll get the help he needs. And yes, we plan on returning to Mississippi.

sign, sign everwhere a sign...shoot...claim abandonment on that boat...and see how fast he claims it!!!THEN...charge him storage....that will take some of the wind{hot i suppose} out of his sail!!!...if we could get him to throwing full beer cans....we could have a party

Hi Heather, we are your neighbors from across the street in the pink house on Hartsie, I understand about the sign, etc... and what you must be going through. We go down there often and hope to catch up with you. Good luck in your rebuilding endeavors. Vivian (Charlie and Kristina, too)

God bless you Heather! Thanks SO MUCH for taking the time to make this entry. It means so much to those of us who care about you folks down there. The news rarely reports about how you guys are and the progress you are making. Thank God for MSNBC for giving you all this opportunity. We are still praying for you!!

Like l.d. I, too, am extremely happy to hear when someone has received their insurance $$$s. We're not hearing that often enough. Of my $300,000 policy, I've gotten $6,000 & pretty much told to sue them for the rest. So, my attorney has taken over & I'm still not very hopeful for a speedy resolution.
I haven't seen the names of any of the insurance companies . . . will you share that information with us? As someone who has temporarily moved to the Atlanta area, I now need to shop for insurance & it almost makes me ill to think about talking with people who I feel have lied in the past & taken my money. So, any help toward an insurance group that warrants my business would be appreciated.
On another note, for those of you who loved & lived in So MS, but are now living somewhere else, are you feeling guilty like I am for not being there during the difficult times? In order to work, I had to move to GA, but my heart is still in Bay St. Louis. Hopefully, eventually, what I was promised via my insurance agent will come true & I'll be able to rebuild & return.
Bless all of you who are there -- I know how exhausting each day must be & I commend your strength & spirit.

You mentioned that the new regulations want you to build on higher ground. Why not contact the New York City, and New Jersey trash haulers and have them barge all the stuff from up here to the low areas of New Orleans and surrounding areas. In no time at all the 20 foot flood heigth could be reached, and new houses built on the pile of Northern castoffs. When that area is satisified, the trash could be continued to be dumped on the Mississippi delta region to rebuild that erroded areas, and provide a fertial site for the grasses and scrub growth to grow on, thus providing additional flood control. New York and New Jersey would even PAY YOU to take the stuff, a double nickel if I ever saw one. I'm sure there are other big cities that would also be too glad to help with mount-trash-more and your regrowth.

Heather, my heart goes out to you as the after shock turns into depression and the sad uphill road you face to rebuild down there.
I came and volunteered gutting, and on my return talked to others about going down to help.
2 strong friends, both experienced in heavy equipment/bocats etc want to come and work cleaning debris/yards etc. They do not want to be high paid contractors ripping off anyone, they don't want to 'steal' jobs from locals, but they will need some pay to live there for a month or two (&pay their mortgages back home!) . Thats the other thing, noone can tell us where they can stay?. We have searched the net, made many phone calls etc, but this information is not available it seems. I know many many people cannot afford expensive help, but is there any interest in having hard working honest guys help out that could clear a lot in a day or 2 for say $100/$150 a day????
Your courage & strength are so inspiring to us. Thank you for taking the time to share again after your blogging break.

To Kelly Blanchard: Thank you for your thoughts...and we went into the local permit department and made the nice man there show us exactly what is being expected as far as elevations and building codes. The Waveland permit office is bldg #5 in the city complex, and you can talk to Otis. He was very patient with my questions.
To Mary Beth: Good luck with your insurance...Our windstorm is through Mississippi Windstorm Underwriting; our flood is through USAA. Best wishes.

Since the MSNBC reporters will be doing monthly dispatches only - please keep these diaries updated. The more that can come out of the coast on what is going on the better for everyone there. I know that I will keep checking everyday to see if you and the others are OK. I have a dear friend that lives in Pass Christian and they have lost everything to first a fire and anything they could salvage was taken by the hurricane. My heart breaks for all of you. I constantly send out everything I can find on the internet to all of my e-mail contacts.

Heather, keep the faith! I am so proud of the backbone, character and resolve of Mississippians. We are definitely hearty people! Just one more reason why we are moving back there after 33 years in California this year. Keep the light on (or should I say the candle lit) for us...We'll get through all this together!

Heather, I'm there with you girl. Someone finally bulldozed my house on Roberts St,but still several feet deep in fallen trees. I think though my biggest obstacle is running water which has my land more flooded than after Katrina. See you at lumberyards.

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