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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