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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.

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Donna Armstrong waves to President Bush's motorcade Wednesday in Bay St. Louis. Armstrong, who traveled over ten miles from Diamondhead to catch a glimpse of the president, said she was "tickled" by the sight. Image: J. Brecher / MSNBC.com


BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. – President Bush’s two-year anniversary visit to Katrina’s Ground Zero may have been a carefully scripted photo opportunity designed to keep all but a hand-picked few far away from the nation’s chief executive, but that didn’t stop one of his biggest local fans from giving up a chunk of her day to catch a glimpse of her hero.

“How can people criticize him?” demanded Donna Armstrong of Diamondhead as she stood outside the church compound where Bush was meeting with local mayors and business leaders.

“He gave me a home,” said Armstrong, referring to the FEMA trailer she and her family lived in for 18 months while mucking out and rebuilding their home, inundated by more than eight feet of seawater in Katrina’s storm surge.

Armstrong was the only local who waited through Bush’s entire hour-long stop at Our Lady of the Gulf Parish Center for his motorcade to leave because “I admire him so much.”

There are more stories about what the federal government did wrong in the wake of the storm hereabouts than there are shrimp in the gulf, but Armstrong is not among those telling them. “I just don’t get it,” she said. “How many billions is enough?”

Most Hancock County’s residents appeared unaware that the president was in town, which was just the way the Secret Service wanted it. Even local police officers said they had only been informed of their special details Wednesday morning.

The president’s helicopter landed west of Waveland so his fast-moving motorcade could take him up Beach Boulevard, where he would have seen work under way to replace a few of the most expensive homes in the county.

Twenty-seven vehicles spirited Bush and his entourage into the church compound while federal agents and local police swarmed the area in patrol cars, a small helicopter, all-terrain vehicles on the beach and speedboats just offshore.

Local officers kept onlookers at least a block away from the event, held indoors to start and then outside in the lee of construction trailers.

While the casually dressed president cited all the progress that has been made since the hurricane came ashore here, with the rebuilt CSX railroad and Highway 90 vehicle bridges in the background, Armstrong held her vigil in the 90-degree heat and 60 percent humidity.

As the motorcade headed back toward Air Force One, she was rewarded with a wave from Bush himself.

“It was great. It was awesome. I was tickled.”

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20 COMMENTS

What an utter waste of taxpayer dollars. Mr. Bush, we would much prefer it if you would stay home and save us the money. You have done nothing for this area in the 2 years since the storm. If it weren't for honorable politicians like Gene Taylor working on our behalf, we'd all still be living in tents. Go Home.

WE lived in Diamondhead Ms. frm 4/2002 to 4/2006. we loved Ms.But after the storm it was so depressing, to see so many suffering, we sold our house and moved to Az,We wish now that we had stayed, we are so proud of the Gulf coast in how they stood up to the challenge of rebuilding and not dwelled on self pity,their true heritage came through,God bless them all.

Too bad the hot weather and her 'christian' bent makes this ditzy woman immune to the news that she and her family - as well as the entire populations of Mississippi and Louisiana - were betrayed by the actions of this Texas Cracker that she waited all day in the hot sun to wave to.

George Bush didn't want to see any real people.

His handlers made sure of that - inviting yes-men from every 'christian' congregation that understand the Republican Party's doublespeak for what it is - racist Klan babble. Keep your guns in case the blacks rise up or the kweers get more political power - - and - Praise Jayzussssssssss! - continue to vote Republican!

What utter nonsense.

Who falls for the photo ops anymore ? The members of the NASCAR Nation - South of the Mason-Dixon Line.

The only uneducated idiots left that think seriously that this Conneticut-Texas transplant cares a whit about them - or anyone else except his fratboy ass.

Where has Mr. Biloxi, MS been? We lived through it and we lost everything. Why do we always need hand outs from the Federal Government. Gene Taylor helped but so has Pres Bush. Mississippi has amazing resilance. A true example of working together. Oh well. Another Democrat wanting to pile on.

What do you want Mr. Bush to do? It is time you get off of your butt and take care of yourself! The Government cannot give everything, to everybody, forever! I got flood insurance money, however, all it did, per the contract, was to pay off the mortgage. I am retired and now I work two (2) jobs to rebuild my home. I did not sit down on my butt waiting for the Government to clean and rebuild anything. That is my job. Thanks to Mr. Bush for coming down. At least he knows that Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast not New Orleans. Yes Mr. Taylor has and is doing a fine job. I guess that is why I vote for him.

Bob from Diamondhead sez:

It is time you get off of your butt and take care of yourself! The Government cannot give everything, to everybody, forever! I got flood insurance money, however, all it did, per the contract, was to pay off the mortgage. I am retired and now I work two (2) jobs to rebuild my home. I did not sit down on my butt waiting for the Government to clean and rebuild anything.

Good for you.

I was in BSL when this happened. I did you one better. I sold my house and left, never to return. If another hurricane (or rather, when another hurricane) hits the MS Gulf Coast, it will be just as bad, if not worse. The only way that that won't happen is if some bulldozers and dredge cutters went out into MS Sound and dredge down the shelf. The MS Gulf Coast has the shallowest offshore shelf between Brownsville and Panama City. Shallow shelf = more surge for same wind speed. Even though my floor elevation is 21 ft, I got two feet of flood. My flood insurance took care of the repairs, and I took care of the rest.

While I won't say that Mr. Bush was responsible for the hurricane (that would be stupid), and nor would I say that the slow response was his fault (that would also be ignorant), I will say that it was his hand on the tiller when the ship ran aground on this particular disaster. As a people, this has been our yardstick for every President from Carter to Clinton. No reason why Bush should be exempt.

Its 2 years after Katrina and Bush visits Mississippi, thats all nice and dandy and heck at the rate he first visited you might want to say you are lucky he came back at all! On the bright side election is coming up again and Bush is out of office!
Theres hope for us yet.

Congrats to everyone that has been able to rebuild. I'm happy you guys are atleast being able to have some kind of order back in their lives. My dad almost lost his home in Katrina. He was lucky. Every house in front of his, except for his neighbor's, was washed away. We simply had to gut his house again. He didn't sit around waiting on money from the government, unlike most of New Orlean.
Mr. B. Armstrong, you are correct and I wish it could be pointed out more often that. THE STORM DID NOT HIT NEW ORLEANS! It hit St. Bernard Parish, Pearlington and the rest of the Gulf Coast. I watched the specials on TV yesterday, and I think that everyone is remembering the predicted path of the storm because we had no TV to watch the news to see where it actually hit.
I'm tired of hearing all this racist junk about poor poor New Orleans. It sucks that it happened, get over it and try and move on with your lives. Atleast have the decency to get off of your rear and gut your own house instead of waiting for everyone else to do it. We were gutting my dad's house not even a week after the storm, trying to help him move on and get back to his normal life, atleast as normal as it can be.

A message to Bob from Diamondhead. YOU did it the RIGHT way. You were not freeloading off of the government before Katrina or waitinf for a free house afterwards. You are a true AMERICAN. GOD BLESS YOU!!

"...keep all but a hand-picked few far away from the nation’s chief executive"


That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it? A real man of the people. Delusion's a hell of a drug, ain't it, Ms. Armstrong?

i too was down in Bay st louis a day after the storm to work in a local hospital as my family has lived there for 50yrs. True resiliency, much more than the highly publicized New Orleaners. It seems that they get press b/c of the the very sensational component of playing the race card. New Orleans was primarily minority populated before Katrina, and a Hurricane caused damage in the city...how in the heck does that imply racism on ANYONES part. Pres Bush did as much if not more for New Orleans and yet the liberal idiot savants of the world(and the media for better ratings)will find whatever angle. As we all know, it wouldnt have mattered who was in the white house...democrat/republican. People only show their ignorance if they ascribe responsibility simply b/c of who was at the helm when the storm hit. I dont know what else could have been done...other than more people taking responsiblity for their lives and the rebuilding of them...rather than waiting on a government to 'fix' everything. We have become a society of whiners and feelings of entitlement...it really saddens me.

I wonder how many of the people in New Orleans who keep complaining about how my tax money isn't being spent on them fast enought even owned a home. Now after two years of free rent they want a free house too? Gimme a break. If my house is destroyed, just me and my insurance company will fix it.

I find it hard pressed that more wasn't done by the Government in some areas. No I don't think people should free load but with a massive disaster the Gov. should be more efficent then they were for this.

I laugh at the racism card some people play, that is truely shallow.

HA HA, the katrina/Bush insult gets funnier every time that President of ours, (not by vote I remind you. Mr Gore actually won) appears in the gulf disaster area. Stay in Washington and nurse your "War" Mr Prez

I passed through that area back in August. Mississippi is a beautiful state, and evidence of rebuilding and getting on with things is all over the place.

I grew up in Biloxi, went through Camille, my mother and grandparents went through Betsy, these were all devasting to the Mississippi Coastline and all the beautiful cities along the Gulf. What I keep hearing is how the storm destroyed New Orleans, New Orleans was not a direct hit, their damage was created by men in power over their state and city government, what do they do re-elect the problem.(go figure). Biloxian that I know, love and respect, hold their heads high, pick up the pieces, pull together as a community and a family and work together to rebuild. It is in their blood and heritage. I AM PROUD TO SAY THAT I AM FROM BILOXI MISSISSIPPI, their reaction to Katrin only solidifies this statement. Bush is one man, he can not provide for everyone, we all have to do out parts. I have been to New Orleans 4 times since Katrina hit, the low income areas have made move in a direction to improve their standard of living, when I see fema trailors parked in driveway after driveway, being lived in, and people also living in the house it is parked at, sound like someone is possibly using the system to get a little rent money on the side!!!

Bush stod with the NEW bridge btween BSL and the Pass in the backround. he did not stand in front of STILL closed school in BSL, 2 years later, MR BUSH no child left behind, they are left OUT.
This woman is speaking for herself. most people that are rebuilding on their own with no much help.
keep up the spirit the people of BSL and Waveland.

It looks like President Bush's "token visit" managed to please someone! The fact is, it's too little, too late. The lack of response by Federal and Local Government Agencies during the time of crisis is abominable. What concerns me is that over time, the US States could crumble, one state at a time due to either natural or manmade disasters and the failure of our Government to provide aid and protection.
Should the people of New Orleans and Mississippi rise again, they certainly WON'T have you to thank, Mr. President!

I live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and I ask of Ben from BSL what child is not going to school here? Most of the problems here on the coast is due to local Government not moving forward and fightning with each other. That is not Mr. Bush's problem. The money is coming in, however, where is it going? You need to ask the local Government. What I love to read the most are the letters from people that do not live here. They have no idea what they are writing about. They watch ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN which in no way represent the facts as they are. For those of you not from here you need to know there was 90,000 square miles of damage. The Federal Government could not be everything to all. American's expect someone else to take care of everything. Well, let me tell you, YOU are the Americans! I can tell about one person (in Louisiana) I know of that pulled up a chair and watched others clean his house. He felt that was their job, not his. As you can tell I agree with this lady. Thank you Mr. Bush. By the way Mr. Chandler, Mr. Bush did in fact win the last two times he ran for the office he holds. And for your information Mr. Gore did not want the votes counted from the Military that were sent in from overseas. Why, because he knew they would vote for a man, not someone else like Clinton.

I lived on the Louisiana coast for 50 years, and I moved my family to north Arkansas after Hurricane Andrew demolished our home in August of 1992. We worked for six months just cleaning up our property, and State Farm finally parted with a few dollars after six years and a lawsuit that finally forced them to do so. We received two (2) bags of FREE ice from FEMA, but we didn't ask for anything. It's most unfortunate that this poor woman thinks so highly of a man who has turned the U.S. into a third world nation. We are now living in a house of cards due to the passage of Medicare Part D and the war in Iraq ... both of which were founded on backward thinking! We now owe our souls to China whose money has financed all U.S. projects promulgated by the Bush administration. I would appreciate it if he would simply stay in Crawford, TX for the duration of his term. Frankly, I don't like to see any taxpayer money spent on his phoney, self-serving, expensive junkets!! Good for Mississippi for pulling itself up without depending on federal assistance.

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