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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. -- It seemed so odd, the baton twirlers twirling, the marching band tuning up, all in the front parking lot of the half-collapsed Waveland Civic and Cultural Center.

But to high school saxophone player Zach Salter, it was just another day in Waveland.

"It's just natural now," he said. "It's part of everyday life."

The tattered two-story building served as staging area for the marching band, which on Tuesday led the Katrina anniversary parade down the street that was Waveland's city center. The short parade route took the band, the twirlers, the attending dignitaries, and the town's fire trucks right past the worst of Hurricane Katrina's destruction, and down to the beach.

One year after Katrina, there's still almost nothing on Coleman Avenue, where the town's beautiful city hall once stood. The only part of the building that remains is the mural than adorned the hall's front steps remains of the building.

But the band played on, and the marchers marched on, right by the haunting concrete slabs and ghostly rebar-reinforced columns that are all that's left along the street. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour rode in a Mustang Convertible, tossing beads Bourbon Street-style out of the car; so did Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo. A ceremony at the beach and live concert followed.

"We have cried enough. Let's get over it and let's get going," Longo said. Tuesday morning's memorial service would be the end of the mourning, he said. "Now we are celebrating rebirth, celebrating life."

VIDEO: Click to see a video blog entry from MSNBC.com's Bob Sullivan on the scene at the Waveland parade.

Barbour told the citizens that they had withstood the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. He acknowledged the frustration over the pace of the recovery.

"The progress we are making is enormous, but it's not enough," he said. "It's not good enough, it's not fast enough. If I get frustrated with the speed, I can't imagine how much more frustrated you all are."

But for one afternoon, a sense of celebration and humor seemed to have the edge on frustration.

Country singer Colin Ray performed an acoustic set, then signed autographs. And then just before local band and MSNBC.com citizen diarists Heather and the Monkey King launched into their live set to cap off the party, singer Heather Harper reminded told the crowd that her home was nearby.

"I can see my slab from here," she said.


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Beautiful....nuff said!

Any idea on what was on the set list ?

What a difference in attitude between this city and New Orleans! They'll get themselves back in business eventually if they just keep on like that. It's nice to see people actually taking charge of their problems and digging in to work at them instead of whining about whose fault it is that nothing's getting done.

I am so glad to see some coverage from Waveland. I left a large piece of my heart there when I came in October to work with a relief team. We have been covered up with coverage from New Orleans - but I truly felt that Waveland had been forgotten. Thanks for this piece and my prayers and hopefully more work team efforts will continue to pour forth for Waveland.


I know these people will get through this. My prayers have been, and will always be with them.

I wish they had footage of the proposal... a volunteer asked a Waveland woman to marry him. They met when he helped out at a soup kitchen after the storm. My mom said it was so touching. House or not, Waveland will always be home.

We in the FLorida National Guard Adopted this fine city because they had the same attitude about rebuilding that we have. They didn't give up or blame anyone that had nothing to do with what happened to them. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work cleaning up and rebuilding.

Anyone giving NOLA a hard time ought to be ashamed of themselves. Look, where most of the Gulf Coast suffered a catastrophic natural disaster, in New Orleans, it was a preventable man-made disaster caused first and foremost by the failing of the levees whose maintenance was underfunded by the Bush Administration -- despite grave warnings -- long before Katrina hit and compounded by the same administration's incompetence and utter neglect of the city after Katrina hit. Most of the city's residents had their homes and livelihoods destroyed. Entire neighborhoods of houses are gone -- reduced to rubble or consumed by toxic fungus. They can't just roll up their shirtsleeves and pick themselves up by their bootstraps.

Residents can't get reconstruction work, but our tax dollars are going to ship in Bechtel security guards to stand around watching FEMA trailer homes, plopped down in the middle of nowhere, that cost more to put up than permanent housing would. All this while they're tearing down refurbishable public housing. No wonder New Orleans' largely black displaced suspect an ethnic cleansing campaign at work.

We have family/dear friends in Waveland. We came back to Ohio just 2 days before the storm hit with some of our aunt's keepsakes not knowing it would be the last time we ever saw her or her home. Had we known there were such hurricane warnings we would have taken everything we could get into the truck. It truly breaks my heart to see so little coverage on Waveland when they were the most severly hit. The courage and fortatude that everyone we know there continues to shine while facing so much beauracy and trying to rebuild. Yes, they lost everything but they are picking up the pieces and putting it all back together. They aren't waiting on someone else to pitch in and do it for them. Waveland holds so many wonderful and dear memories and we have so many wonderful friends, it hurts us so deeply to see all the destruction and a lost to the way it was. But, they will be back you can be sure of that! There are a lot of very good people in that wonderful little town. They will overcome!

This story demonstrates the power of the human spirit to not only survive, but thrive in the toughest situations. The people of Waveland are an inspiration to everyone.

What a great time we had sitting on the beach listening to Colin and Steve and Heather!Even Jeff Bates was brought in for autographs and personal encouragement to continue picking up the pieces. Too bad we couldn't have a short set from the guys of Three Doors Down, but thanks for the fire truck anyway. After all the work we have done to clean up this place, it was nice to reflect what has been done since the hurricane and remember those who have given so much to our community. Thanks!!

Surviving on Seabrook (soon to be Living on Seabrook!)

In the midst of pain and suffering, the bonds that link human beings together triumph, as strangers become friends. Life does go on; there is a time for everything under the sun!

70 miles of Mississippi Gulf Coast flattened and devastated. Do you hear about that on the media reports? No. Does anyone out there realize that the Mississippi Gulf Coast was ground zero? You wouldn't think so, would you?

Waveland is a wonderful little town, full of brave, hard working people. God bless Colin Ray and people like him who remember the good folks on the MS Gulf Coast.

People want to say that New Orleans had it worse. Take a drive to Waveland. Drive down highway 90 and look at the miles and miles of slabs where beautiful homes used to be. Then tell me that it's worse in New Orleans.

Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Biloxi, Gulfport, Pass Christian, Long Beach...these are the places filled with folks who make me proud to be a Mississippian.

It is sad that Matteo would take this space to try to argue his case for New Orleans plight when it is heartening to see a community rising up to take care of itself against all odds. I am so proud to be counted among those 'rising from ruin.'

Such a stark contrast here...people of New Orleans waiting and stuck with an incompentent local offical (Mayor who is also a bigot) and the untold many others who see this event as a natural event (not Bush's fault) and get back to fixing thier homes. Funny how it is always the laziest of people that have a microphone before them so they can blame others with a pile of trash at thier feet they refuse to pick up.


I dont see how its Bush's fault at all, New Orleans has its own local and state government that is desinged and capable of taking care of the city and state. If the levees were under funded put the blame on the people who were responsible for mantaining them wich would be the City and State, not Bush.

Im sick of hearing that people are bending over backwards to place blame, but so few people are willing to just get the job done. If you dont like how things are now, take an active roll in chaning them. Dont sit down and complain about the problem, do some thing about it.

Waveland is a good example of people who are taking an active roll in their recovery.

To Matteo
You need to come to the Gulf Coast and spend a little time in New Orleans and Mississippi. You too will start to get aggrevated by the attitudes of the residents of NO. If the residents of New Orleans would get to work like the residents of Mississippi have then they wouldn't have time to sit around, complain about the government, and feel sorry for themselves.

It is amazing to see how one city realizes the best way to move forward and rebuild is to rely on the efforts of the citizens of the city while another city believes the federal government is responsible for not just the rebuilding but also the natural disaster. This is why Mississippi will be a success story and New Orleans a failure. I was married in New Orleans and love the city; however, they will never succeed in their rebirth with their current mentality. Good work Mississippi. Maybe your ethic and drive will eventually inspire the residents and politicians of New Orleans.

Yes, I think I see where this is going. The residents of NOLA are lazy, ungrateful and underserving, right? What kind of people do we historically associate those qualities with? Hmm... Black people, maybe? Where the people in this story, the good roll-up-your-shirtsleeves git-r-done people depicted, are all white.

I'm not disparaging their courageous efforts to get their lives back together. The people of the Mississippi coast, black and white alike, have withstood this tragedy with awesome fortitude. But the good old boys and girls making thinly-veiled racist comments on this story shame us all. Whether in NOLA or Pass Christian, Katrina was a national tragedy (though in NOLA, it was one bred largely by government incompetence). That anyone -- whether opportunist pols like Bush and Nagin or anonymous commenters online -- would use it as a pretext for the glorification of bigotry is truly sad.

I've read the above blogs and agree with everyone. Having experienced both Katrina & Rita, the influx of evacuees into Baton Rouge and the initial chaos created by an additional approx. 300,000 people is beyond anyone's imagination if you were not directly affected. I have to agree that Mississippi is getting the shaft on their hardships..BUT they are tired of waiting on the bureaucracy to do its job and have taken in pride in their homes and lives and are attempting to do something about it instead of crying about it.
NO evacuees, not all, but certainly the majority of the ones who waited for the government to personally fetch them now call themselves "victims". These are the individuals who give the majority of the true evacuees a bad name. As for the "thinly veiled racist remarks", it goes both ways. This hurrican was not directed towards any race, but certain races were determined to make it appear that way. Ironically, these "victims" were calling themselves "victims" for many years prior to Katrina. Most of these "victims" scream and cry about their homes in the lower 9th ward, what the majority of the world doesn't realize is that about 80% of those "victims" didn't own the home in the first place, they were renters renting from slumlords. As for "refurshibable public housing", these housing projects should have been torn down 50 years ago. Again, unless you have seen it and how the people lived there, you have no idea what the reality is there. The demand to rebuild in that area is laughable to the people who live and know New Orleans. These are people who have never,ever left New Orleans, not even to come to Baton Rouge which New Orleanians considered "backwoods".
I have found that the majority of these comments from the northern states have never had the pleasure of dealing with these type of "victims" and are eager to discuss the southern way of life and attitude on a personal basis. If I were to guess, most have never stepped foot below the Mason Dixon line. New Orleans will never be what it was because of the good ole boy attitude that still abounds in Louisiana...that includes the governor and mayor.
Bigotry is not the problem in New Orleans, Louisiana, Mississippi....the problem is individuals who have become so accustomed to receiving handouts and the government willingly giving it to them, that when the gravy train has derailed, their first and only way to deal with it is to cry victimization. They have no pride or ethics or respect for themselves so the best they can do is point the finger at someone else. Jobs abound within 100 miles in and around New Orleans, but I see firsthand these "victims" who refuse to work for one reason or another or just simply because they don't want to work. I challenge any of them to prove me wrong.

I think that some of you are being quite unquestioning when it comes to the recovery of Mississippi. You are not seeing what has happened to the poor and struggling individuals that resided and still reside in Mississippi one of the poorest states in this country. A lot of them, of all races have been shunted to the side and covered up. May I suggest that you look at the NY Times Sunday magazine posted on September 27, 2006. I think if those who are singing the praises of Mississippi recovery do a little research you will find that many, many people have been paid a lot of lip service when it comes to helping them recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. We all as citizens of this great country should be demanding that all of our government officials, whether local, state or federal do all that they can to help our brothers and sisters who are struggling. It doesn't matter if they are white, black, Asian or Native American. We should all feel like we are in this for the long haul and that we are in this together. I offer this as a black female who grew up low-income in the inner city. I don't sympathize with those affected because they were mostly black, I sympathize with those affected because they are Americans, raised in the same country and instilled with the same basic beliefs that I have. I am not saying that we should throw money at individuals for years on end; I am saying that we should insure that everyone who suffered this tragedy is given the basic building blocks to start over. For those who are determined by what ever social service to not be as financially astute, they should be required to enroll in programs created to teach fiscal responsibility. Once this country has done all that it can to set these folks on the right path, we tell them that it is for them to walk down under their own steam because no one is going to carry them.

We all were raised to believe that this country always takes care of its own not some of its own.

The story seems to point out that there are individuals that are willing to move forward and quite with blaming others for what happened a year ago. Through all of the media coverage, so much leads to negativities and not what positive steps have been taken to recover what was lost. Having some form of a normal life gives me hope that the Gulf Coast will recover. Enough blaming, move on!

Katrina just proved the folks of Mississippi and South Alabama are a resilient lot. They are taking probably the worst thing any of them have ever experianced short of a shooting war, and they are working hard, and working together to make their places even better than they were before.

Anyone who has ever lost everything due to a fire, or other disaster is still not in as bad shape as these folks, and they are making a come back.

God bless the strong men and women of this region who are working hard to help themselves, instead of sitting back waiting for a hand out. I am not sure some other parts of the country would have made this much progress in only one year.

I was there , and also in the band, and alot of what was said is true, i have read everyone of these cmments and I think you all. We didn't play very much but the people of Waveland did enjoy it. While I'm in my house and many more aren't I still wish that it would return to normal but sadly, it will never.

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