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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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It is a time of transition for Bay St. Louis, Waveland and Hancock County, and for Rising from Ruin as well.

A year after Hurricane Katrina pulverized this formerly idyllic corner of Mississippi, the cleanup of debris is finally slowing and the towns and county are moving full throttle into the rebuilding phase.

That obviously isn’t the end of the story of recovery from the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, but it has prompted us to adjust our coverage to be positioned to see this tale through to the end, which is clearly years away.

Instead of monthly reports, we will visit the area periodically to report on milestones and challenges in the rebuilding process, document the halting steps toward normalcy, and more important, tell the stories of the people who each day display uncommon valor in the face of tremendous adversity.

Between our reports, many of our citizen diarists have promised to continue posting about life in the disaster zone, and our bloggers, many of whom live in the area, will help keep readers abreast of developments.

In the months since our first visit to Bay St. Louis and Waveland in early October, we have seen much and met many people – as the 214 staff-written stories in Rising from Ruin attest – and been touched by the stories we have heard. We look forward to sharing more of those stories with our readers in the months and years to come.

Read the first post on the situation in the towns in October 2005.

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29 COMMENTS

I sat cozy in my home, until I saw and read your first month or so of your coverage.
I promptly packed up my tools and my truck, headed to Kiln, pitched a tent and KNEW I had to be there to help.
THANK YOU for your stories, that 6 weeks cleaning up and doing what I could, changed my life. I made life long friends while I was there, and I WILL return again soon, to see for myself the healing of those magnificent people.
A saying I learned from the locals applies to you and ALL of the volunteers 'We appreciate ya.'

Thank you, once again, for providing this unprecidented coverage. This readers has appreciated each and every story.

I want to thank you for your continued coverage of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In a time when we seem to have been largely forgotten by the media, you have been there for us through it all. I'm very glad to hear that you will be continuing the coverage as this great state works to make it's comeback.

Thank you for your almost single handed efforts to keep Mississippi in the news.

MSNBC, thank you for this website and your coverage of Bay St Louis and Waveland. Without "Rising from Ruin", I'm sure there would be many more people around the country (and world for that matter) who would not even be aware the Hurricane Katrina damaged any place other than New Orleans. There will be lots of good news to report in the weeks and months to follow from here as we move from recovery to rebuilding, I'm sure.

Thank you so much for the coverage and support. Clearly a large number of people across the country care and follow our plight. One point of disagreement though, Waveland and Bay St. Louis are not moving even at low throttle to re-development. Some retail commercial recovery has occurred, but political corruption, political arrogance by mayors and "public servants (see Bay St. Louis building inspector articles) and wasted resources keep progress to a crawl. Miles of wasteland were before August 29, 2005 the cities of Waveland and Bay St. Louis. Please don't leave people with the idea that real progress is occurring. Thanks again for your help.

16 of us from our church went to the 9th district in Chalmette, Louisiana in April for eight days and volunteed with Samaritan's Purse through the Disaster Relief Program. It was an uplifting experience and at the same time a very depressing experience. We gutted 4 homes from the contents right down to the studs. We prayed with and for the people who showed up at the site, many tears where shed and alot of hard work. In the town of Chalmette their were 27,000 homes and only 3 excaped harm. And only 2,000 had been gutted in this area in 8 months. This seemed to me one of the most devastated areas in Louisiana. Houses moved off foundations and completely destroyed. The levi broke about 2 miles from this town.The soil was contaminated on the properties. I personnally would have rather fight four good house fires then work like an animal under those conditions. Houses stacked on top of cars, trucks, and boats. I ask only one big questions it's been over a year now sense Katrina what has been done for this poor town of Chalmette Louisiana. I firgure it will take 12 to 15 years to just get Chalmette back on the map. My opinion because of all the contamination, and the mold in the homes, is to help relocate as many people as possible and make a park or something constructive out of this land. Also the 300 hundred business that don't exist anymore in this town. God Bless to all and may my prayers help them.

I only recently became a regular reader of Rising From Ruin and am now a fan. I'm grateful to MSNBC for running it, because of all the news and "war stories" about people's lives, the recovery process, etc., not to mention the responses, that just aren't available elsewhere.

In fact, I wish Rising From Ruin could be updated more often because of the way TV newscasts such as NBC Nightly usually don't air very much post-Katrina coverage any more--I'm sorry to see that it's cutting out the monthly reports, but I am glad to see where citizen diarists and bloggers are continuing.

Because Katrina is not old news and will never be old news as long as people are struggling to rebuild and to recover from the worst natural disaster this nation has ever seen.

I only recently became a regular reader of Rising From Ruin and am now a fan. I'm grateful to MSNBC for running it, because of all the news and "war stories" about people's lives, the recovery process, etc., not to mention the responses, that just aren't available elsewhere.

In fact, I wish Rising From Ruin could be updated more often because of the way TV newscasts such as NBC Nightly usually don't air very much post-Katrina coverage any more--I'm sorry to see that it's cutting out the monthly reports, but I am glad to see where citizen diarists and bloggers are continuing.

Because Katrina is not old news and will never be old news as long as people are struggling to rebuild and to recover from the worst natural disaster this nation has ever seen.

God Bless each and everyone of you. Home owners and volunteers. You are a brave group of people and give us all courage to go on each day. I can tell you that there are as many thoughts and prayers going out to you as there are people affected and helping by this horriable disaster.

Thank you for continuing to keep this website and your coverage going during the extended recovery phase!

I would like to add my expression of appreciation for your ongoing coverage of "Rising from Ruin." My nephew and his wife, Heather and Steve Harper,who lived in Waveland, lost their home and belongings to Katrina. Your reports and the dairies of residents enabled me to feel in touch with them on a daily basis. I visited the area in December, 2005, and was appalled at the extent of damage. There's no way the media could cover all of it. Thanks again for helping me to try to help them.

I wrote this on Christmas Day in 2005 and have thought about sending this several times. I think it is time for these kids who willing gave up part of their Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays to help at St. Stanislaus to have some kind of recognition. You can edit this as you see fit or choose not to post it, but I have never been so proud of a bunch of kids in the 21 years that I was E.D.Catholic High School. I am no longer at EDW that these kids went to; in fact, most have all graduated as of this past school year. All you would have to do is contact St. Stanislaus and find out what they did. If you would like some more information, you can contact me.

This is what I wrote on Christmas Day 2005:

Today is Christmas. I am getting ready for my family to come to my house tonight as we always do on Christmas night. My house is “tidy” because I am good at “hiding” things when we are all together. Usually, I am at a high level of stress at this time, but this year, I have vowed not to “sweat the small stuff.” I only put up the Christmas tree—none of my other beautiful Christmas decorations. That will have to do, and I am fine with that.

During Katrina, Natalie and I spent four days in safety with the luxuries of electricity, air conditioning, food, and friends—all safe from the ravages of Katrina. Besides the inconveniences of long gas lines and long lines at WalMart, we survived Katrina unscathed.

My sister-in-law and her family weren’t so lucky. The 17th Street Canal levee breeched, and their home was flooded, leaving them displaced for the last three months. Luckily, she had her mother’s home to come home to, and the kids were welcomed into St. Genevieve. They will be moving back to New Orleans in January and will begin getting their lives back to normal. I have seen their neighborhood and home, and it is total devastation—unimaginable unless one witnesses it first hand. However, they have each other, and they will some day have some normalcy in their lives. For that, I am truly grateful for them.

For one day during the Thanksgiving holidays and three days during the Christmas break, Natalie and I went on a mission trip to Bay St. Louis with members of the Key Club to help clean up after St. Stanislaus, Our Lady Academy, and Our Lady of the Gulf Church suffered utter devastation at the hands of Hurricane Katrina. What a humbling experience this was.

The coast is also totally devastated—total ruination. Mere words or pictures cannot describe what is, or should I say what is no longer there. Where there were once stately homes and quaint shops and restaurants, nothing remains except the slabs that provided the foundations for them. Trees and shrubbery, once green and alive, now are brown and dead and strewn with articles of clothing. Debris still remains everywhere even after three months. People live in tents and FEMA trailers. At night, with no streetlights, it looks as if ghosts hang hauntingly in the trees. It makes one’s heart utterly break to see it.

Looking back on our mission trip, I have to say that I was so proud of our kids. They went there with the spirit of Christ and did His work to help the needy. The work that they did was unimaginable—picking up, raking, and hauling trash, busting up and hauling concrete, sorting through donated clothes, pulling up tile and cleaning an elderly woman’s home—the list goes on. One would have to have been there to fully appreciate their efforts. In the grand scheme of things, their work may seem minimal, almost nominal, but to those of us who witnessed what they did, we know the magnitude of what they did. They expected no glory, no press coverage, nothing. They know that in people’s darkest hour, the spirit of Christ is always with them, and for those few days, they brought that spirit to those people.

So, during this Christmas season, I have found an inner peace that I have never had. I would never have thought that I could be so profoundly affected by such an experience, but I am. God works in mysterious ways. Thank you, Lord, and Happy Birthday!

My question is why the lo.........ng ,sl.......ow cleanup process.I can understand rebuilding 27,000 homes but our government is certainly passing the hat with cleanup efforts.Supposedly money from different countries,other states have been directed toward this effort,but alas still cleaning up.Maybe regulations and environmental issues should be mandated for one central area,like they did for the 9/11 cleanup- truck it to one area then dispers to various other areas.Then hire unemployed laborers(preferably legal) and contractors ,plumber,etc to come in and block by block rebuild.Have containmentated soil hauled away to central area.This is America,the can do country.Everyone says Katrina was a disaster unheard of before,one year with no change is just another disaster ongoing.

Alana, the cleanup is pretty much completed. We are moving into the rebuilding phase. Houses are starting to be rebuilt in larger numbers now...a lot of the holdup in that regard is in the red-tape of elevating property before rebuilding, obtaining permits, getting the work inspected and getting the mortgage companies to release the money as the work is completed and progresses. But much progress has been made down here in the last year, I assure you.

I agree with Olivia's comments. This story is far from over. While I genuinely appreciate all the resources MSNBC has contributed to its "Rising From Ruin" coverage, they should be reminded that while most of the debris has been cleared, reconstruction is just beginning...and the lives of Mississippi Gulf Coast residents have far to go before returning to anything resembling "normal".

Over the last year, I've watched Mississippi make tremendous strides in cleaning away the debris. And this represents no small accomplishment. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has estimated that debris removal represented a daunting task. For perspective, consider their comments: "A cubic yard is roughly the size of a kitchen dish washer. 118 million cubic yards of debris were generated -- more than the combined debris of 9/11 and Hurricane Andrew; 11 times as many homes were damaged or destroyed as was the case in Hurricane Andrew; twice the amount of debris as in the Florida hurricanes of 2004."

Now, I can't speak for Louisiana, but I can tell you that Mississippi has, as has been widely reported, seen massive debris removal in Jackson and Harrison Counties...and I have personally witnessed the progress, including much in Hancock County - However, I would quickly agree with Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre that much work remains in Bay St. Louis along with isolated pockets in all 3 Mississippi Coastal Counties.

So when the media focus is incrementally re-directed elsewhere, will the support so sorely needed still be there?

And of course, I recognize all the humanitarian efforts to date from individuals, faith-based groups, various organizations, and government - Mississippi will be eternally grateful.

Any interested parties may check out my efforts to report what I personally documented on my non-commercial website at http://www.jackneal.net/editorial.htm , and should feel free to use the Katrina Memorial Book to post comments, questions, or memorials - We'll all need to do what we can for a long time yet to come, to keep the story of this country's worst natural disaster in history on the "front page"...or any "page" for that matter.

Thank you again, MSNBC - It's a shame you've invested so much in a story...only to curtail your reportage...when it's far from over.

The nation's interest in Katrina is fading. One of our shortcomings as Americans is that we have short attention spans and a diminished resolve to see things through to conclusion. Even the wave of nationalist fervor which swept over us after 9/11 is fading and we are losing our resolve there, too. It's a good thing we fought WWII in the 40's and not now; we would have been all gung-ho after Pearl Harbor but after two or three years of fighting we'd have been ready to throw the towel in and move on to something more interesting than saving the world from Nazi Germany and Japan.
Katrina held the nation's interest, morbidly, as long as there was footage of rescue workers pulling dead bodies out of the houses, people were being plucked off rooftops by helicopters, looters were being filmed running amok in the French Quarter and abandoned pets were being rescued from flooded homes. None of that is happening now; the biggest story now is the displaced New Orleans residents still unable to come home one year later. People also were left with a sour taste in their mouths when they did donate and contribute to the relief effort only to be inundated with reports that their help was being squandered fraudulently and was not even appreciated by the storm victims, a misconception created and fostered by repeated national news reports that focus on the negative sensational stories and ignore good stories. Katrina is becoming a footnote in our history, like the San Francisco earthquake, Great Chicago fire or Johnstown Flood, probably before it should. People just don't want to hear about it anymore.

I recently visited Jack A. Neal's website and encourage everybody who cares about recovery in Mississippi, Louisiana and the rest of the storm zone to see it and sign his Katrina Memorial Book. It is extremely sobering and brings one to reflect and wonder why, as Mike says, the American attention span has to be so short and there is a diminished resolve to see things to conclusion. It is far too soon for Katrina to become a mere "footnote in our history" when it is clearly still much more.

And the people of the Gulf Coast should not be abandoned. With the diminished news coverage out of Mississippi and Louisiana where people enduring various hardships are struggling valiantly to rebuild and still need a great deal of help because this is a project far too big for them and their communities to manage by themselves, is it any wonder that the Bush Administration is now looking the other way?

In both Hancock County and New Orleans (just to cite a couple of examples for brevity) the school systems are both in drastic need of bringing up to par. Also, in the affected areas of Mississippi and Louisiana, affordable housing is very hard to find.

However, President Bush wants to donate $230 MILLION to LEBANON to repair her SCHOOLS and provide HOUSING RELIEF. I find it morally wrong as an American taxpayer that this money is being squandered overseas on people who don't like Americans when Mississippi and Louisiana would benefit from sorely-needed relief that could rebuild schools and provide affordable housing, which they aren't getting.

Is it any wonder that, with the paucity of news coverage from the storm zone which has averted most Americans' eyes from the area, Bush thinks it's O.K. to throw $230 million at Lebanon like so many Mardi Gras beads?

Bush seems to think the $110 billion already allocated for recovery should be enough--which it really isn't--I mean, you're talking an area which includes a large American city and her infrastructure. New Orleans' power, water, and so forth are now like those in a war zone, which is hampering reconstruction. A lot of the $110 billion has been spent on temporary measures as FEMA trailers, and the rest is tied up in red tape. Perhaps media attention to this matter would loosen the purse strings.

I hope that after reading all the positive comments
MSNBC decides to bring Rising From Ruin back by popular demand. As I said in my previous posting, it is truly appreciated and is needed much more now than ever because of diminishing news coverage.


Yes, this story is far from over.. sadly. And I will continue to support the people of Missisippi in any way possible. Thanks MSNBC,but if you close this down....I'll get my news from CNN!

Thanks MSNBC. As a displaced Katrina survivor I have clung to this website to find out about the things going on at "home". I can't tell you how many tears I've shed when reading the stories and the diaries. Thank you can't convey my deepfelt gratitude to all who have written and contributed to this endeavor. I hope, someday, to return to "the Bay" but until then I pray everyday for my family and friends who are "fighting the good fight" to rebuild and survive. Thanks again and again MSNBC.

Perhaps, MSNBC might want to rethink it's new reporting system for this site and take more of an active reporting stance. Perhaps, if your news group collected real data on: the number of homes, number and types of businesses, schools, churches, government buildings, services and parks being rebuilt or not, you could inform the rest of the country about the real progress. What do these communities need that they aren't getting? Are the utility comanies and large corporations still helping? Perhaps some investigative journalism as to how politics is getting in the way of the rebuilding or who are the successful politicians getting things done. Maybe you can help quicken the pace of recovery by factual reporting. I think the media could help the rebuilding continue in a positive and forward thinking fashion. Send some reporters undercover to get the real stories too. Just a few ideas for your staff.

Yeap, ........They got us shut off .......Hello FOX News!......Goodbye people , best of luckand may God bless each and all!

Thanks.Great job.Mississippi is a wonderful place to live and raise a family.Your reporting reflected this fact.Ya'll come down.We'll have the ice tea catfish and hushpuppies waiting.Heck,you don't have to come to work,jus' visit.God Bless.

BarbP we need you.Your presence will make a difference.

The people of The Bay are holding tight and still putting one foot in front of the other. You can now drive from Waveland to 90 on BEACH BLVD.!!!!!!! Granted it ain't perfect - but, baby, it can be done. Debris is gone from the beach - the sand looks great and sea oats have been planted on the beach from Washington to Coleman - most of the concrete bike/walking path can be negotiated. Some shops have opened/reopened in the first block of Main St. "They" say that a ferry will be running every 45 mins. between Washington St. pier and Henderson Point by the first of Nov. this year. Remember the Bay bridge 1 lane each way is not due until May of next year. I've been saying that on the 3rd anniversary of Katrina we will be ready to PARTY!! A miserable 3 years, but will be just as good only stronger for the experience and the rebuilding - this time we are doing it right. Another day I will write and vent about the wrong things that are happening. To pull out of the exhaustion and depression that comes with putting your world back together you sometimes need to focus only on the positive. It's October and the trees, plants, and grass are green - not Katrina brown. Rebirth is in the air - take a sniff.

Alana,
The long process of cleaning up is a result of the extent of the damage. The damage extended from the eastern border to the western border of the gulf coast.
Thats a lot of debris. The problem now is money for home owners. Insurance companies aren't paying up and many didnt have flood insurance. The flood insurance was based mostly on the 1969 cat 5 hurricane Camille. Camille's damage as far as water hardly reached a block off the beach in areas that this time water reached miles. Not to mention the height of the water.
We rebuild other countries for free but only offer loans to our own people. I had insurance and am living in my house. I feel for the people here that are retired and have no earning power. They depended on the fact that their homes were paid for and some could still only existed hardly making ends meet. This storm took and destroyed lives. My dad was in failing health before the storm but the storm pushed him over. He died before he could even see his lot cleared of the debris where his house once stood. His house survived hurricane Camille. If you truly want to know what is going on here come visit us. You will be shocked even now. I have posted photos on my website that you can view as well. I want everyone to know what we had here and what we lost. www.wilkersonphotography.com

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