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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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An Army Corps of Engineers subcontractor tears down Mary Perkins’ home in Bay St. Louis. Photo by Mary Perkins

As the adage goes: Out with the old and in with the new. My house was demolished this week. I had been wanting this done, so I could begin the rebuilding, but it was a bittersweet experience. I had lived in that house for more than 50 years, since I was 5. After Camille, it was damaged and had to be repaired, but nothing like this. As the boom went through the front door and began swinging side to side, taking down the front part of the house, I cried. Salvaging the memories is now all that is left.

I know it is a good thing, but it's really hard. When the house was there, even though it could not be repaired, it was still there. Even though you could not live in it, it was still there. Now it is gone, and you stand there and you get scared. Because it is not there anymore, and you are forced to begin a new thing. And because you grew up there, grew up with the neighbors, grew up with the town. Now, the neighbors are still there, but the house and the town are just about gone. I thank God that the neighbors and my sister were there with me. At least I did not have to face it alone.

I also know a new beginning will come from this. But you are torn from what used to be -- your life, your everyday routine, your friends -- and realizing that all that has changed and will never be the same as it was. Right now we have no grocery stores, no place to rent movies, no K-Mart, no Radio Shack, no shoe stores, no clothing stores, no place to buy greeting cards, etc. And, folks we are six and a half months into this disaster.

Our parents taught us to be strong, resilient, to help your neighbor, to take care of things yourself. That is exactly how it was after Camille, and that's exactly how it is after Katrina. We have become our parents in this disaster. We have become the ones to take care of things, to fight for what is ours, to help one another. And you see it every day. As I was standing in the street watching the house go down, a guy stopped. He was a neighbor on the other side of my house, younger than I am and now doing contractor work. He said, "Mary, are you OK? Every time I pass the house, I see your mother and daddy sitting on the front porch." He also offered to help any way he could. I told him I would need someone to come in, form up the slab and frame up the house for me. He told me to call him. He'd help.

That's how we work down here. It doesn't matter how long it has been since you have seen someone, they will be there to help you if you need them. So, as the old goes out and the new comes in, some things never change. The old friendships will never go out. New ones may come along, but the old ones are there for life. That's the way we work. That's why this town is so wonderful. The spirit is what makes it move forward, and move forward as a whole. None of us realizes that we are moving forward together, because we might be working on different things in different areas. But we are all working together, moving forward to find the new way. But some of the old will remain and that is what I want to keep: Some of the old. It's OK to begin something new, but I want to hold onto some of the old -- hold it in my heart and soul.

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Mary, we all know the only constant in this life is change. How easy to say when it's not me! Good for you for moving forward through the losses; each step is one closer to making your home and town whole again. I know you are an inspiration to everyone there, and also to all of us outsiders who watch the recovery of your area. God bless and keep on going!

Mary, Thank you for your lovely diary entry. It has me crying and praying for you all, again. I'm so sorry for the loss of the house, but so grateful for the friends and neighbors who were there for you. You have spoken about the heart of the town in such a poignant way. I haven't lived in the Bay since I married, but I still care, and so do my siblings and parents, none of whom still live there. I guess it's the thing about "standing by people" that is so much a part of small town life and has us all still connected in our hearts. That's just the way it is. When I was young, I didn't understand a lot about the Bay and always wondered how to really be a part of a town with such history, when you and your parents' parents were not raised there. But when we knew where the storm was going, we all knew we were part of the town, in our hearts, even if we hadn't known before. When it was hit, we were devastated and we've all been trying in our own different ways to help. I guess we've all learned a lot, the neighbors close by who have lost so much, and those of us, so far away, who wish we could do more. Know that we pray for you all and think of you daily. With such lovely people and such courage, the Bay will be rebuilt, one hug, one smile, and one kind offer from a trustworthy friend, either old or new at a time.

Mary, I truly admire your outlook. I cannot imagine how heart-wrenching (and surreal) it must be to watch your home "go away." Still, in all of this you manage to seek out the good things and appreciate each day's little gifts such as someone saying, "Mary, Are you OK?" We can all learn from you.

Mary...this tares my heart out....but your parents did well...teaching ya'll to be strong....be thankfull...for the "oldfolks" who tought ...a lot of US!!!.....better days are comin'

Mary, we've lost everything twice (except the two dogs and two cats) couple of years ago to a fire and then the hurricane. But we're rebuilding again and in the same location. Please write more about how you are doing, I'm sure a lot of people hope only the best for you and many of the locals are in the same situation with you.

God bless you, Mary! You and all those along the MS Gulf Coast who have stayed. You are the heart and soul, the reason so many of us return to this site to keep in touch with your efforts to rebuild your lives. There are so many folks across this nation who are praying for you, hoping with you, and doing whatever we can to help (although I know it isn't enough). Soon, we hope to see pictures of your new home. You are an inspiration!

Mary, please be strong. I live on Waveland Avenue and can sense what you are going through to actually see your home be bulldozed because it was probably worse than I felw when I came home on August 30th and saw that I had only a slab left. At least I didn't have to see it being destroyed. A few things that give me comfort are the fact that my husband was (after many hours and days) had found sections of my front porch including several pieces of the porch flooring, some of the railing and four of our porch posts (al with Katrina scars) and we have incorporated them into the construction of our newly rebuilt home which is almost complete thanks to many many volunteers. So if you can, try to salvage anything that you can and incorporate them into your new house. I know it makes me feel better to be able to see and touch these treasures.

hooray Rose, something from yesterday....will make your new house a Home!!!{we all have scars}....just makes us remember....and memories are precious

I have nothing left of our home but we will create new memories. At this point we can't even start to rebuild because the insurance company keeps telling us to not "touch" anything until they can get the 12th agent out there to see the damage. All these other insurance people saw the damage but they still can't decide what happened. Was it a hurricane, a tornado, maybe a big rain storm that caused a flood? What is their problem, are they all blind? Give me one more month of this bull and I am so totally out of here. We had a 5,000 sq. foot house and maybe I should give my const. money and taxes to another state. Sorry, but I am in a totally bad mood right now.

I am just about one step away from going somewhere else. It's been too long and too hard. If I were 10 years younger then maybe I could have just a bit more patience but I am tired of waiting for something to come along and get me on the road to recovery. I have worked my xxxx off, gone through a mile of pushing papers and still can't get started. I will never forget the Mississippi Gulf but sometimes there is a limit to what one can accomplish. I think I see Lake Guntersville in my future -----------

Mary: I've never had to experience what you went through, but I can feel your loss so aptly presented and conveyed in your post. I hope you can feel my arms and hugs of support and comfort as you go through yet another "death" from the storm. Thank you for sharing this poignant story.

Mary, thanks for your great entry! You are so right - we have so many mixed emotions. I can be so happy about something occuring and at the same time, be devastated. All exterior walls of my home had to be ripped out and replaced. I arrived at my home when one of the walls had already been ripped out and replaced and the men were half way finish ripping out another wall. I stood there, like I was frozen in time - when I looked to the left, the brand new walls with the brand new windows brought such joy and happiness - the PROGRESS! - however, when I turned to my right and saw them ripping the walls out of my home, my heart sunk - even though the wood was rotten and there was no choice, but to rip it out - it was MY wood, MY HOME, being ripped apart. Well, it didn't take me but a couple of seconds to put it all back into prespective REAL quickly - all I had to do was to look out my window towards the beach and remember I was one of only 3 salvagable homes within 4 blocks of my street. I have come to realize we will be dealing with Katrina for years to come. I realized this when I was trying to clean up my yard somewhat and had a blower in the driveway, when I saw something strange that was flush with the top of the ground - well, I got a shovel and starting digging and it ended up being an entire expresso machine that was in my kitchen - it was completely buried, with only a small portion of the top visible - that's when I realized, we will be finding stuff buried in our yards for years to come and it will always be "another reminder".
Mary, hang in there - I was born and raised in the Bay and have lived here for over 40 years - you are so right, we stick together and no hurricane will ever take away our spirit, our resilience and our love for our town - best of luck to you!

Mary, I admire you so much. Not only do you have the strength to watch your home being brought down, but you have the strength to write about it. You are strong because you know what needs to be done and how to get it done. You are not a quitter. Your new house will be a wonderful home because YOU will be living in it.
I hope I never have to be in your situation, because I really don't know if I could handle it - waiting so long, even though my family is still waiting for the roofers to get to our house. You all on the Coast are the salt of the earth. Mary, I think you could write a book.

Mary...i'm with Jane ...write a book....let people know of our history......and this storm ...was history....we hope!!....we cut ...we bleed....then the cut heals....again...we HOPE!!

I just got home from our week in Bay St. Louis. I was at your library shelving books on Monday, and felt the spirit of Bay St. Louis-especially when we met you (and Wheezer). It a definitely a place apart. I will NEVER forget the wonderful people of Bay St. Louis and will spread the word for support.
You are in our prayers.

My heart still breaks when I see and read about the struggles of people devastated by Katrina. I'm just an unemployed house wife who wishes there were something I could do. We've (my husband and I)continually pray, sent funds, pray some more. I cannot begin to imagine how or what I would do. But, I know that some how with God's grace we go. We show others what we are made of and we go on. Keeping you in prayer.

I being from the Outer Banks of North Carolina,A small historic town called Edenton; truly relate and understand the emotional toll a trajedy like this can have on lives.
y name is Geddes Bootwright and I currently live in Nashville, TN. After Katrina, I went to Gulfport along with several other concerened and willing neighbors to help in any way we could.The trip is one I nor anyone else can ever erase from our minds.I hope that io day stint meant something to those fine folks. I know I will NEVER be the same again!

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