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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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‘Citizen diaries’ is an ongoing blog by residents of Bay St. Louis and Waveland in which they share their observations and feelings about the recovery process.

Let those Republicans keep on partying

Diary entry by Steve Harper from Tuesday, September 2

Well, it seems at the moment that we've survived Gustav. Early reports indicate that we probably had 3-5 feet of water under our house (which is about 8 feet up on stilts), so, perhaps no serious harm done. We'll know more later today when some of our friends still in Bay St. Louis check back in with us. It's been interesting to watch all of the news reports and coverage.

This storm we spent in Grand Bay, Ala., with Heather's folks, and never once lost power. Yesterday was a constant wall-to-wall Gustav story ... today, mostly back to business as usual.

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Not again! Preparing to flee Gustav

Diary entry by Heather Harper from Friday, August 29

Steve and I are wondering whether his art show this Saturday evening will go on. Should he hang the show? Should I buy the hors d’oeuvres? Will anyone come, or will they all be packing and/or leaving? Should we reschedule it?

We haven’t needed to evacuate since Katrina. A few times, we’ve thought we would need to leave, but fickle weather patterns kept us in place. Not until Gustav have we seriously begun to hold our collective breath and pack our collective belongings.

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History that still hurts

Diary entry by Heather Harper from Thursday, August 28

When I was born, Hurricane Camille had happened three years previously, almost to the day. I grew up hearing mention of Camille from time to time, but not a whole lot. I heard about it when I noticed a stain on my grandparent’s paneling (the waterline), when I inquired about steps leading to nowhere (former front stoops) and whenever a storm was heading this way (how would it compare to Camille?; how much water there was in Camille). My aunt Theresa composed the dedication for a sign erected in Waveland to commemorate the 1969 storm. Beyond that, life went on. Camille was just part of local history.

As so often happens, I grew a bit older and gained a more personal perspective of the local timeline. Now three years have passed since Katrina, and it remains very much a part of coastal consciousness. I am amazed, though, to hear newcomers say things like, “Oh, yes, I heard stories about that storm” as if it’s a historic event. Of course, it is an historic event. I know that. But it doesn’t seem that way, because we are still feeling its effects.

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Rebuilding, one house at a time

Diary entry by Gwen Impson from Thursday, August 28

Before the storm, we counted ourselves lucky to live on Mollere Drive, known far and wide as the prettiest street in Waveland, Miss. My husband had retired from a D.C. job and we moved here in 2000. We had just finished a five year renovation of our entire home and thought everything perfect. We had added a covered patio complete with a hot tub and John finally had the workshop he had longed for. Then Hurricane Katrina hit and we lost everything.

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Celebrating the 'day-after anniversary'

Diary entry by Steve Harper from Thursday, August 28

This year the trees have made a comeback.

For the past several years, lots of things have looked like a haunted house here on the coast. Dead, twisted trees, bare branches, bark all painted in silvery grays. But this year the vegetation looks thicker and lusher.

It took me a while to notice. I spent most of the summer trying to figure out why our above-ground pool was staying so cold. (Poor Heather could hardly stand to get in it!) Then I realized that all of the trees on the lot next door had leaves on them, and the sun wasn't hitting the pool until about noon. The trees were so green that even a colorblind person like me could tell.

Life is a funny thing, and sometimes something can stay bottled up inside for years before bursting back out in a showy display.

My life has been that way lately.

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Much accomplished; much to be done

Diary entry by Mary Perkins from Thursday, August 28

When I was asked to write this diary for the third anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I took the time to go back and read my other diaries through the first two years. I was amazed at what has been accomplished since then.

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Construction and deconstruction

Diary entry by Heather Harper from Wednesday, August 29

I’ve put off writing something for the second anniversary of Katrina, because I don’t quite know where to begin. We have a lovely home now and lovely neighbors. I’ve become accustomed to the idea of not living in my former neighborhood. At least when I’m busy I don’t think about it as much. I think that has a lot to do with healing around here — if you can stay busy, it makes things so much easier. It gives you something to focus on.

Most everyone I know is in some stage of rebuilding. I feel like we are living in some house flipping or design show. It’s funny to see this rural area embracing such modern trends. I never thought I’d hear my father use the term “cut in” when referring to painting. And I never thought he would have anything on his walls besides paneling! I never thought I’d hear my curmudgeonly uncle debating stains and finishes and chair rails. Stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, deep sinks, ceramic tiles, bi-level counters and bamboo floors are everywhere. But even with all the rebuilding, there are still so many places that haven’t been dealt with yet.

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Healing happens ... yadda, yadda, yadda

Diary entry by Steve Harper from Monday, August 27

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.

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We're not quite ready for another one

Diary entry by Mary Perkins from Monday, August 27

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Ferns hang on the porch of Mary Perkins' new home. Photo courtesy of Mary Perkins


As I sit here thinking about the two year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I am watching Hurricane Dean moving toward the Yucatan and Mexico. But it could have been here that Dean decided to visit. And we are sure glad he didn't, because we are not quite ready for another one yet.

So, how are things after two years? Well, some things are much better. Two lanes of our bridge opened in May, and it was a very emotional experience. There was a special program at the foot of the bridge on our side, then dignitaries went to the top of the bridge and tied a ribbon symbolically joining the two cities together. Then we had a celebration at the Bay-Waveland Yacht Club. More than 5,000 people attended, drank beer, ate food and visited the more than 150 booths showing local wares. Since the opening, I am now able to travel to Long Beach to the Winn-Dixie Grocery Store in 20 minutes, instead of the 45 it used to take. For me, it boosted my attitude a little more.

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Home again in Bay St. Louis

Diary entry by Mary Perkins from Tuesday, January 30

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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.

CONTINUED »

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PREVIOUS DIARY ENTRIES - sort this list using the tabs below

Days ago Headlines Author Comments

Let those Republicans keep on partying

Citizen diarist Steve Harper of Bay St. Louis, Miss., writes that no hurricane should stand in the way of a good party.

Steve Harper 1

Not again! Preparing to flee Gustav

Citizen diarist Heather Harper writes that residents of Bay St. Louis and Waveland, Miss., are holding their collective breath as Gustav advances on the Gulf Coast.

Heather Harper 6

History that still hurts

People now talk about Hurricane Katrina as an historic event, but it remains very much a part of the coastal consciousness, citizen diarist Heather Harper writes.

Heather Harper 2

Rebuilding, one house at a time

House by house, street by street, Waveland is coming back to life, citizen diarist Gwen Impson writes.

Gwen Impson 6

Celebrating the 'day-after anniversary'

Just as the trees have made a comeback three years after Hurricane Katrina, citizen-diarist Steve Harper's artistic nature has bloomed again after a long dry spell.

Steve Harper 4

Much accomplished; much to be done

Looking back over three years it is striking how much has been accomplished, but complete recovery will take at least a decade, citizen diarist Mary Perkins writes.

Mary Perkins 0

Construction and deconstruction

In addition to all the construction going on along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, many homes are being deconstructed. Citizen diarist Heather Harper writes about one such house -- the home where her grandparents lived for many years.

Heather Harper 7

Healing happens ... yadda, yadda, yadda

Two years after Katrina, MSNBC.com citizen diarist Steve Harper writes that healing sometimes happens whether you want it to or not.

Steve Harper 7

We're not quite ready for another one

MSNBC.com citizen diarist Mary Perkins writes about her feelings and the situation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast as the two-year-anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches.

Mary Perkins 19

Home again in Bay St. Louis

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...

Mary Perkins 21

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