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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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As we come up on the two-year anniversary of the storm, I find myself at a bit of a loss for words. It's not so much that I'm healed, or that anything is back to normal. I guess in a way, I am discovering what thousands of people with some dread medical condition have already realized for years: I don't want to let this tragedy define me.

Back in November I caught up my old friend Tim Stanton (the drummer for the band "the UGLISTICK"). Tim and I sort of lost touch after Heather and I moved to New Orleans some 6 years ago, and I finally managed to track him down (through a series of phone calls to mutual friends and a hawklike eye on the local entertainment listings). After the obligatory hugs and greetings that reuniting with a long lost friend requires came the inevitable questions of "How have you been?! What's been happening?!"

How have I been? ... What's been happening? ... Seemingly innocuous questions, but for those of us living through the reconstruction of the Coast, these two questions could take days to answer.

But, I believe I answered him something like this.

"You know, moved to New Orleans, made some connections, got some gigs, moved to Waveland, yadda, yadda, yadda, now I'm living in Bay St. Louis."

I yadda yadda'd over the entire time since the storm. The heartache, the shock, the loss, the grieving, the daily struggles, the lines at the Red Cross distribution points, the trials and tribulations of insurance adjusters and FEMA. The snafus of flood zones, elevations, blueprints, meetings, donation distribution, all of it ... yadda, yadda, yadda.

I think I've come to understand how someone can be a quiet Jewish man down the street who never talks about his childhood in World War II Germany (not that the situations are the same by any means). After a while, you don't want to let a tragedy define you. To be alive and function as a human you can't dwell on misfortune forever. Sometime the healing process happens whether you want it to or not.

I certainly wouldn't want to walk down the street 20 years from now and hear people say "That's Steve Harper. ... He lost his house in Katrina."

As far as anniversaries go, I'm much more excited by Heather's birthday we celebrated last week. I'm much more excited about a 20-year reunion with my band from college "The Aboriginals" that my friend Tim Stanton is putting together for me. I'm much more excited about my band "Heather and the Monkey King" and our tour dates in Europe next summer (on the anniversary of our tour dates in Spain from this year). Two years since the storm doesn't really mean that much, I guess.

The kids in my school are pretty much like kids now. I hear about it when they move into houses and out of their trailers. True, life here on the Coast is still far from normal. Heather and I seem to talk about whether we should stay or go nearly every week (and she says she thinks about it every day.). I certainly do understand the appeal of living someplace where destruction and hardship are not daily occurrences (but flooding, fires and tragedies of late have proven that no place on Earth is free from peril.) One never knows what the future holds.

However, I feel that no matter where we wind up, and no matter what happens to us in the future, we won't let tragedy define us.

P.S. As I was writing this piece, I got a phone call from my old friend John Leon, a musician from Austin Texas. I had lost touch with him before we moved to New Orleans. (In fact, Heather and I met at his wedding!) He, too, asked me to fill him in on the past years. ... Yadda, yadda, yadda.

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Steve Harper's "Healing Happens --- Yadda, Yadda, Yadda" should be posted in every newspaper in this country. Excellent and healthy outlook no matter what tragedy befalls a person.

I wonder if tragedy like these one make people open their eyes and define them as it should.But the sad thing is they still blind.

I lived in Slidell and went to school and work in New Orleans when it hit. My family and I got the standard fare - lost home, work, school. And every incidental run of bad luck afterwards was magnified by the situation. But, I kept my head down, finished my master's degree while working 3 jobs with a 65-mile (one way) commute, and moved into a great job.

I know that had I not been through Katrina, and the subsequent fallout, I would not be who I am today. I don't really think of myself as a victim or a survivor. I haven't let the tragedy of Katrina define me, but my response to that tragedy - hard work, and faith and hope - has galvanized who I am today.

I know many people who have similar stories, and I really hope that everyone in the region can draw strength from their experiences and move forward. We may never be fully healed, but that's no reason not to keep working and have hope.

My husband and I lived in Pass Christian on Menge Ave 2 years ago when Katrina hit. During the hurricane, we stayed in Gulfport with my mother-in-law, where we thought we would be safe. Needless to say, we lost everything we owned,including our jobs, however, we had our lives and the desire to make our life better. We relocated to Georgia where within the month, we both had jobs and a place to live. We still do not have everything that we had before Katrina, but we have the peace of mind that we are safe and with God's Love we can have anything we want.

I'm glad that you are still playing. was wondering how it was going since it had been so long since your last post. It sounds like things are looking up.

No matter where you relocate after the hurricane -- don't ever get too content about being SAFE. I finally decided that if I move trouble will find me there also. It might not be a hurricane but look at all those other big ole problems out there.

Thank you for a frank look at how to handle adversity, Steve. Your community and state is certainly qualified to handle that assessment like college-educated professionals! It's good to hear from you again. For someone like me who believes that laughter and music are good for the soul, I'm glad to see you didn't loose your music or your humor during the storm.

Belated happy birthday to Heather! I wish both of you a successful school year.

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