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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.

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Seventeen months after Hurricane Katrina wrecked her home, Mary Perkins is all moved into her new house in Bay St. Louis. Photo courtesy of Mary Perkins

I am now totally in my house!! Yay!! The photo shows you the finished product with the grass, the fence, etc. Getting into the house and being able to sleep in a real bed, shower in a real tub, cook on a real stove does change your attitude immensely. I've found that I am more into my work and just all around in a better frame of mind.

It is definitely a wonderful feeling to no longer have to live in a 30-by-8-foot FEMA trailer. I now wonder how I made it 14 months in that tin can and did not go stark raving mad. It was a great day when the trailer was hauled off.

The puppy dog, cat and I are getting settled in. I have gone through a great many boxes, found places for those items and situated things. I still find myself moving things from one cabinet to the next or from one side of the room to the next until I feel at home with it.

On Dec. 30, the Lagniappe Presbyterian Church group came by and dedicated the house. About 15 or 20 people came in, had a prayer, read some Scripture, talked about the work and then prayed. I was grateful for that because I would not be in this house without their hard work and kindness to me. I am truly blessed, folks!!

And now for what is going on here 17 months since Katrina. Buildings are being demolished, such as the county tax office on Main Street in Bay St. Louis and the Baptist Church in Bay St. Louis that was built in the 1940s. These are all historic buildings and it is very sad and disheartening to see them go. I grew up with these buildings always there. To say that our lives have changed forever is an understatement. Life is not the same as it was and it never will be again.

Someone said it this way: It is almost as though life here is like one of those movies you see where everything stopped and nothing moves forward. That is sort of the way it is. Yes, things have been cleaned up, things have been torn down and some people are rebuilding, but it is almost as though time stands still for us. I ate lunch at a restaurant today on Coleman Avenue in Waveland. This restaurant is located in the second block from the beach, but there are no buildings around it and when you look out the window, it is like an atomic bomb went off. The ground is flat, there are no structures toward the beach, the trees are almost all gone, and it seems surreal.

So, my friends in Rising from Ruin land, it's good to be in a house, but it's still very sad. I have ridden the ferry across the bay several times. It is really rather a nice little trip, only about 25 minutes, compared to 45 or more going around. At night you hear the pounding of the pilings being driven into the water for the new bridge. It is looking like they may have it ready in May.

But we still do not have a grocery store here in this area -- just the Wal-Mart. Sunday I drove 30 miles just to go into a real grocery store. It was nice.

Please do not forget us. We still need a lot of help and a lot of support. We have a long way to go to make it back.

Until next time.

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Congratulations Mary!! Your place looks great and we are so happy for you!

As we write from just up the block we can hear the pile-driver in the Bay doing its thing. Its two-second rhythm is the sound of progress but also a reminder that there is still so much to be done. As you noted, Katrina's destruction of our beloved city is still ongoing. It's been 17 months, but the work has only just begun. Thank you for being part of our voice to the world.

Congratulations, Mary. And may all who enter your new home feel those blessings. God Bless You.

Congratulations! May God bless those you and those who helped you. I hope that the nation knows that you are ahead of alot of us. I am sure that others could not imagine homes and businesses and no grocery store. Enjoy your new home and know that the rest of us are trying hard to catch up.

Hi Mary:

Wow, your house looks so nice, and I know you are enjoying it! Hope all is fine with you and everyone at home. Gee, I sure do miss Bay St. Louis, as it will always be HOME to me.

I sure don't like all this snow and cold weather but we do what we have to do. Tell all hello for me, and "hang in" there. Situations WILL get better.


What an adorable, comfy-looking home! Glad to hear you, Freeway, and Pokey have finally completely moved in. The dedication sounds like it must have been beautiful--you truly are blessed. And it sounds great to be rid of that trailer! I was sorry to read how seeing historic buidings you've seen all your life demolished and other things in your surroundings are still making you sad--that sort of thing would make me sad, too. But I guess time and seeing more rebuilding will help with those. It is good news that the new bridge looks like it will be ready in May.

Your new home looks so warm and comfortable. Things will continue to get better all around and you will be able watch this happen while sitting on your porch. Our house is still being worked on but maybe in a couple of months we (along with two dogs and two cats) can move back to the Pass. So happy that things are going well for you now.

So glad to see you settled. How I miss the Bay - my chosen home for more than thirty years. Our hope is to be able to return one day, but daughter Alicein and family are holding down the fort at the Mockingbird Cafe for now. Love to all our friends back home.

Mary,your house looks fantastic! God is good! We were honored and blessed to be a part of a group that worked on your exterior walls, framing interior walls and starting the detailed hip roof. Our trip to Bay St. Louis has helped us relate to what is really going on in your community. We are excited to be planning another trip for this summer! We may stop by for a visit if we have time.

My heart is with ya'll......thanks for the post!

Wow - I don't get to check the blog in a few days and look what happens! I read your post, Mary, and I so feeling so happy for you, Freeway, and Pokey, that I couldn't help but shed a few tears and get so excited! I feel like I am the one moving in instead of you. I also want to thank the Lagniappe Presbyterian Church for giving of themselves and the love of Christ they showed you in helping build your house. It makes me feel better, knowing I can't personally come and help, but seeing some of my donated pennies being used.

Mary, congrats and I'm sure you'll have a blast while you get settled in. Thanks for sharing the picture!

Mary, God bless you in your new home! I am so happy for you! As for those of us who have volunteered and are still volunteering, we can never forget what happened and how all of this has changed not only the lives of the wonderful people of Mississippi, but also our lives.

Congrats on the house! I hope to see many more like it when I make it home again. You are living proof that Katrina could not take away the spirit of the Bay. Stay strong.

We are from Tennessee and my husband was one of the men from Nashville that assisted in getting the Hancock County water system working. Since that time we have had constant contact with people he met there. We are not financially able to help as we would like to but are coming back, my first time, on our own in March to help for a few days some of the people which he met and have left an ever lasting effect on our like.
We are happy for the few that have rebuilt but are coming a few days to help with whatever we can to all the others.
We get monthyy pictures from one of the people he met and are in grave concern that there are still so many without.
Keep up the good faith and in one way or another things will get better.

you did it with patience and a lot of hard work

I live in Orange,Texas. We suffered the eye of Rita, we went through much of you folks have dealt with.

But we had nothing like you had, thank God we had no water surge. All of you are strong people. Your home is darling. Move forward, enjoy yourself and continue your kindness.

Bless you, Mary, and everyone who has helped and continues to help rebuild. Keep us posted on what's going on in the community. We have not forgotten.

God Bless all on the Gulf Coast areas that were ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Congratulations Mary. I hope that all the residents will pick up like you did and use your example as a light house to help them find their way home.

Greetings from Northern British Columbia.(Canada)
Wishing you health and good wishes in your new home.
Seeing the damage caused by Katrina was so heart-wrenching. I can only hope that others will soon be able to move home again.

I have "followed" your blog since I first read about you on the Lagniappe website. Since then, my entire family has moved from TN to the Bay...and we are just as excited as the natives to see the progress and hear of you and others getting back on their feet.

Mary, hope you've got ferns hanging from the eaves of your porch. Thinking of you, still.

Looking good Mary!

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