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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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BAY ST. LOUIS -- Tuesday dawned still and silent on the beach: The waters of the bay lapped the shore ever so gently and the quiet was sullied only barely by the sounds of massive sifting machines in the distance clearing the sand of storm debris. The peaceful morning on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina offered the starkest of contrasts to last year's calamity.

Piercing the silence at 9 a.m. came the sound of the Christ Episcopal Church bell, rung by parishioners to mark the anniversary of the terrible storm. The congregation took turns pulling the bell cord, tolling it 58 times in remembrance of each of the deaths in the area. Then they all rang it three more times, in honor of the Christian church's Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

The Rev. Elizabeth Wheatley, who rang the bell first, offered no prayer or observations. The bell spoke for her.

Throughout the region, churches rang their bells at 9 a.m., an unofficial beginning to a day of memorial services and celebrations marking the solemn occasion.

Like virtually every other structure nearby, Christ Episcopal Church was wiped out by Katrina. Initially, the parish held services on the remaining concrete slab. Today, a Quonset hut houses the congregation. The heavily damaged bell tower is now operational enough to do its duty on special occasions.

One year ago today, most of these congregants were far away, wondering if their friends had evacuated, and if their houses would survive. The bad news was still ahead of them.

After the service, the group swapped where-were-you Katrina stories, and insurance frustration stories, which happens at nearly every public gathering here.

Dootsie Murphy of Bay St. Louis was just glad her church could come together for the occasion.

"It has been a long year," she said.

Camille also displaced congregation

Hurricane Katrina was not the first storm to chase Christ Episcopal Church. Camille, in 1969, also destroyed the church building, forcing the congregation to uproot to this spot.

That means people in this congregation here know they can recover from destruction, and they have set about doing just that. Despite the challenges, they haven’t missed a Sunday service since Katrina. And they don’t plan to.

The rest of the day Tuesday was set aside for more services and celebrations marking the anniversary.

The observances began with a candelight vigil for Katrina victims Monday night on a tennis court next to the Holy Trinity Catholic School, a ceremony that began with the passing of a flame accompanied by a solemn reading of the names of the dead but soon took on a more upbeat tone.


Joel Bowman, 4, right, and his brother John, 5, attend a Bay St. Louis candlelight vigil Monday night for those who lost their lives to Hurricane Katrina. The Bowman family evacuated to Houston when Katrina hit, but came back when Hurricane Rita headed for Houston. (Robert Hood / MSNBC.com)

Bay St. Louis City Councilman James Thriffiley gave a talk titled "Inspirational Words," and told the group that they should be proud to have come this far, proud their community is on the road to recovery
"Give yourselves a hand," he urged them, before realizing that wasn't good advice to a candle-holding crowd.

The levity level escalated from there. There has already been plenty of occasion for tears.

Sign-along lightens mood

After uniformed children sang the new school song, teacher Connie Heitzman led the crowd in a sing-along. It included “When the Saints Go Marching In,” compete with a single-file student march around the crowd with an umbrella-toting girl leading the way. A half-hearted rendition of the “Barney Song” followed.

Soon after, a closing prayer restored order.

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My heartfelt prayers goes out to all of the Gulf Coast and those who lost loved ones. May God Bless the Souls of the ones who perished!!

As a native of Mississippi, the Coast ( as we referred to it ) was our backyard...our playground.

It was an area of extremes, but most of all it was our treasure...the stately old homes, graced by beautiful live oak trees, the fresh seafood restaurants we yearn to return to ( and consider part of our very DNA ), and yes, even the casino's.

It was beauty, culture and tradition personified.

Now, it's almost all gone.

My wife is a Biloxi native, and she only recently returned to view the area first-hand. She remains heart broken.

As a Mississippi-based freelance photographer, I was compelled to document the devastation that words can never describe. I would encourage any and all to visit my non-profit website at http://www.jackneal.net/editorial.htm to view my humble attempt to get the word out about an area that seems to have taken the brunt of the killer storm known as Katrina, but has gotten too little of the media attention instead reserved for those who experienced a horrific flood as the levees were breached. I offer my site as a living memorial to all the valiant Mississippians who will most certainly persevere...and would further offer my virtual Katrina Memorial Book as a place to comment on, or memorialize a victim of, the monster storm called Katrina.

On this first anniversary, we glance back, as we struggle to look ahead.

So much lost. So much to be done. So few tangible reminders of what once was the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

May God bless the people of the Coast.

Thank you MSNBC for your continuing coverage. You'll never know the lives you've touched.

we lost everything there in waveland, but our love for the coast and the people. i'm now with my daughter in washington state, but plan to return to Ms. soon. Keep on keeping on dear friends and let God guide us all.

Why are "we the people" looking to Big Brother to rebuild the areas hit by Katrina? What ever happend to people helping each other. What ever happend to local efforts? Although as a fellow tax payer I do not mind paying to help others, but why is our tax dollars going to Lebanon and not the cities and areas devistated by Katrina. I think the people of THIS country should come together and help rebuild the south! No Government! "We the people" can get off our couches and put down the tv remotes and pich-in. Lets show Washington we do not need them. Lets stop the billions of dollars from going over-seas and help the Great people of the south get thier homes back. This country can do great things for the world, but let's help our selves.

I'm probaly gonna get in trouble for this { but what's new} I don't agree with a woman preaching!

Andy - Somewhere, there is a church that will accomodate all the things you do "agree" with. I hope you find it and can worship in it with the same joy that we worship in ours, with Elizabeth.

Thank you for the continuing coverage of the recovery effort. The church is not a building but people, saved by God's grace. You are a wonderful example of working together, upholding one another as Christ has commanded us to do. My prayers go out for all of you.

Andy, you're not in trouble. My own dear mother would agree with you! I guess it comes down to the fact that all of us have different preferences. Sometimes, I'd prefer to get my sermons from the birds of the air and the fish of the sea than from any two-legged critter God created! (with all due respect to the ministers out there) :)

For Andy in Booneville: What were you thinking? With all due respect, I cannot imagine a more inappropriate time or place for you to offer your opinion regarding women in the Christian Ministry than within the context of this MSNBC story regarding a church and congregation that were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, yet have remained steadfast in spreading the Word...and who even today serve as an inspiration to the remainder of the World's Christian community. I can only imagine your comments were meant to garner some attention. You've had all of mine you'll get. Preach on, Elizabeth!

For Susan in Waveland: I visited ( and photographed - see http://www.jackneal.net/baystlouis_gallery.htm ) the ruins of your church shortly after Katrina came through. I've seen the "before" photos, and look forward with you all in seeing yet another "monument" to God's Glory overlooking the pristine Gulf. My heart goes out to all your congregation, yet I see already anticipate your resilience, and suspect another church facility will soon replace your tent structure.

On a note more specific to the MSNBC piece, could you arrange for me to contact someone in your Ministry Department?. I'd like to make a portion of my website available to memorialize the 58 individuals the MSNBC story details your own memorial to. Of course, I'd like to include all the 200 plus (?) Katrina victims/missing from Mississippi, but finding a comprehensive list has been a bit daunting. I may be contacted at jack@jackneal.net.

Thank you, and may God bless you all.

Cher, that is where I get my sermons...in the tranquility of God's creation!

Thanks for an excellent post--that service sounds like it was beautiful.

Also, I'm grateful to Jack A. Neal for his posts with the link to his website, which is deeply moving. I visited it and signed the Katrina Memorial Book. I hope many others do the same to show they haven't forgotten Katrina and her survivors. It may be 1 year later, but Katrina must not be forgotten, even though the "drive-by media" seems to have done so.

Something shameful I noticed: To be fair, I must precede this by mentioning that on Tuesday night MSNBC's Scarborough Country was anchored out of Biloxi, so Mississippi wasn't totally neglected. And I'm grateful for that. However, NBC Nightly (on which Brian Williams has previously said he'd air reports out of Mississippi as well as New Orleans) didn't have any Katrina anniversary coverage out of Mississippi. I mean, I'm also interested in New Orleans so I was grateful for the report out of there and Brian's anchoring from there, which was better than nothing, but still....

And another thing NBC Nightly recently did which has my hackles up: on their blog dailynightly.msnbc.com there was an entry with the beautiful story of a couple who visited Mississippi's Gulf Coast and found photos belonging to families who'd lost their homes, collected these photos, and used them to make keepsakes for the families who'd lost their homes. The posting said that a story by Campbell Brown on this couple would be aired Tuesday night, and I looked forward to seeing it.

I watched NBC Nightly Tuesday night and this inspiring, uplifting story did not air. Would you believe, someone at NBC Nightly actually thought the latest installment in the JonBenet Ramsey case was more important? Nor did Campbell Brown's story air Wednesday or last night...

Jack A. Neil, my grandfathers would roll over in their graves to think of a women preatching. Don't scold me for something you have probably never faced!.....Look at me eye to eye.....If you dare!..... Andy Cain Booneville Ms, 901 N. 2nd st. If you can't find me ask the local law .....they will find me for you! Or E-mail me I'll give ya my damn telephone #.

I have posted a message on some of these sites and I thought they had to be approved..when did it become the "Old West" The comment from "Andy in Booneville"
is so not wanted!!! Get a Life Andy!!!

As the proud Aunt of a little girl who attends Holy Trinity's first Kindegarten class, I must say that your coverage of the vigil was a little light.

Holy Trinity is the result of 3 schools of the Catholic faith merging due to Katrina. Each one of the students have a story when it comes to Katrina, i.e. loss of home, loss of family, loss of school, split parents, etc. At 5 years old, children like my niece should not have to know about FEMA, sheetrock prices, "30 foot palaces", price gouging, inflated gas prices, and insurance issues (although educational). They should be able to focus on being a 5 year old.

But, through it all, these kids have kept their chins up and worked together through the merger to become one school. Principal Buras should be recommended for her efforts to get the school up and running so soon after Katrina. And, one can not forget the thousands of schools and volunteers who pulled together to send things that were needed to help each class return to school.

So, thanks to all of you who helped bring a school back for a 5 year old to continue a Catholic school tradition in my family.

Got one Sue, and sort of enjoying it!.......And you?

To everyone in Mississippi, Louisiana, and elsewhere in the storm zone still recovering from Katrina and Rita, and everyone all around the US who, even though it's over a year after the storms hit, has the wisdom to still care about and be concerned about those struggling to rebuild:

Let's all let MSNBC know we miss the regular reports, other postings and updates on Rising from Ruin. Because it is not "old news" for us. It may be over a year after Katrina hit, and many lesser Americans including the Bush Administration and the mainstream media including MSNBC seem to have quit the area, but we must let them know we have not moved on--and will not be able to do so--until people in Bay St. Louis, Waveland, Long Beach, Biloxi, New Orleans, Cameron Parish, and all other communities in Mississippi, Louisiana, and the rest of the areas hit by Katrina, Rita, and other recent storms are O.K., and rebuilding is proceeding as it should be, which they aren't, and probably won't be, for some time.

Unfortunately, the lack of coverage including updates on Rising from Ruin are going to, if they haven't already, give other Americans the false impression that things are back to normal in the storm zone. They'll forget about the people there, and the fact that much help is still needed, if they haven't already.

MSNBC needs to rethink its decision and bring back the regular updates on Rising from Ruin--which should be an active website keeping people abreast of the recovery process in Bay St. Louis, Waveland and the rest of the region. Let other news outlets go on to the latest in "Foleygate", the midterms, North Korea, and so forth.

Ever since I ran across Rising from Ruin I've been grateful for all the information, especially the informative posts by people on the ground in the storm zone on what they've been going through. Now--when these people fear being forgotten by a "drive-by" media and by other Americans who have a short attention span--is not the time to cut way back on this coverage.

It's time to request that MSNBC bring the regular reports and updates on Rising from Ruin back.

Dear Mississippi Residents, I used to work as the DON at the 'old' Hancock General Hospital just prior to the present building. I have never heard what happened there???? I evacuated from Slidell to Jackson for 3 weeks where the people there were absolutely wonderful. I am now living in Slidell, and have wondered about Hancock Hospital since the storm, but my health doesn't allow too much travel now. I miss the coast and enjoyed meeting all of the wonderful people that reside there. I wish you the best!!!

Hi Kathy... you can go to hmc.org and read all about it. We made it through. You should come and visit sometime.

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