12/14/2005

Stripped Bare

I feel stripped bare by what Hurricane Katrina has done. I did not think it possible that the destruction that I saw in D'Iberville and Biloxi could be any worse. But what I show in Gulfport this past Saturday still haunts me and will for a long time. The sad thing is that the further west you go along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the worse it is. If Gulfport is that bad, I cannot imagine what Long Beach, Pass Christian, Bay St Louis, Waveland, and Lakeshore look like.

Every time I turn around there are constant reminders of Hurricane Katrina. Most days I can deal with it. Some days, it takes a supreme effort to just do the daily things.

It's a constant roller coaster of emotions. Yesterday there was joy and sorrow. Joy that the parts to rebuild the racking system at the cold storage started coming in and that the placement of rebar and the building of the concrete forms is speeding along for the rebuilding of the factory. Then there are the calls from long time retail customers that cry when they learn of the destruction of the seafood market and tell you "Bless your heart and we love you" and your only response can be "We love y'all too".

Even placing long distance phone calls out of state is a reminder. When talking to people you haven't talked to since the hurricane hit, there is a pattern, first there is the joy that we're still around and then the sadness at the destruction.

It's been more than 100 days of this. There is the worry that Congress is not going to come through this session for the $34 billion that is sorely needed to rebuild. City halls were destroyed. Police and fire stations were destroyed. Libraries were destroyed. Utilities are still being repaired. The whole electric grid will need to be repaired and even though all those who can have power now have it, there is still a lot of work to be done.

And the homes, the 68,000 in Mississippi that were destroyed. Half of them were not even on the 100 year flood plains much less on the flood plains that require flood insurance for a mortgage. Then there are the precious lives lost. In Mississippi, 238 lives were lost. The majority were elderly who chose to stay in their homes believing they were safe based on what Hurricane Camille had done in 1969. Almost every day there is a special obituary memorial of someone who died during Hurricane Katrina.

Even taking a lunch date is no break. For then you learn of the destruction of the house that his father built with his own hands 50 years ago. And you learn that all of his equipment he used for his business was destroyed.

You call your family and friends and for a few brief moments there is an absence of Katrina but it creeps in after awhile, for the favorite game in the South is did you hear, and so more Katrina stories are shared.

The traffic jams are horrendous because two major arteries are out of commission. Hwy 90 is still closed in Biloxi and the two bridges at either end mean people from Ocean Springs and Bay St Louis have to travel circuitous routes. The same for those that rely on Popps Ferry Road. Next to I-110, this is the busiest route into Biloxi and the bridge is still out.

Hurricane Katrina has stripped my life and the lives of over 300,000 Mississippians bare. Even though stores are open, there is still a scarcity of goods at times. Going to places like Mobile helps and then it doesn't. You escape for awhile but then you come back to the reality.

At times there is doubt that we'll be able to rebuild. For the most part that doubt is unspoken but in discussing it with others, the doubt is there at times. When I have seen miles and miles of destruction, I believe it's a natural reaction.

My heart aches for my city of Gulfport and the lives of the people in it. It aches for everyone on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina brutalized us and some of the scars are unseen. It has stripped us bare. But in doing so has exposed strengths that were unknown. The first and foremost is the strength of the community down here. There's a realization that we're in this together and that it's going to take all of us to rebuild. Then there's the strength of faith. There is also the realization that so many people have come from places like Virginia, Canada, California, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, and all corners of the country to volunteer their time to help us. We are not alone and that also gives me and so many others strength. The continued prayers of so many also help us.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Felis said...

"Some days, it takes a supreme effort to just do the daily things".
My heart aches for you guys.

7:15 PM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

felis,

Thank you. It's day by day. But there's always the faith that we are going to rebuild and get through it.

7:20 PM  
Anonymous Bozwell said...

I am blown away by this Seawitch. I will be posting this on "Opinion".

Thank you for this very special piece. My thoughts are with you.

4:30 AM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

boz,

I tried showing what I felt through the pictures I took. Sometimes words are needed.

Thanks for the cross post.

5:41 AM  
Blogger Esther said...

Karen, this is truly heartbreaking. You have truly been put through hell but you WILL come out the other end. I hope Congress comes through for you all.

I'm serious here when I say if you're not already seeing a therapist, I hope you start. We've discussed mental health before so I'm guessing you're set but I'm still discovering the ways my fire has affected who I am (yesterday it was 8 years). What you've been through is soooo much worse. It's too big to deal with by yourself.

7:15 PM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

esther,

It just hit really hard this past weekend. This was only the third time I've been to the beach area in Gulfport. Since Hwy 90 was only recently opened, there was not a chance to see what had happened. I've calmed down and have been talking with friends and family and that helps.

So I don't feel so powerless, I'm seeking ways to help out. And just the thought of helping clean up the beach and other ideas has uplifted my spirits.

It's a grieving process and I'm sure there will be some more days when it seems overwhelming.

8:16 PM  
Anonymous Bozwell said...

I couldn't agree more with what Esther said.

5:13 AM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

esther and boz,

This is different from the depression that I'm prone to. There is not the grayness nor the blankness. There is sadness and rage at times but I'm able to work through that. The tears that I've shed have been appropriate. And you're both correct, this is something that I can't face on my own. That's why I talk about it with family and friends and post about it. The talking, writing and picture taking are therapy. That was one of my problems when I first had to seek help. I kept it bottled up. The writing helps me articulate what I'm most worried about and get it out in the open. At times, readers to my blog may be bushwhacked with posts like the above. It was also an attempt to try to share with others what the destruction is like down here and so I poured my heart out.

Sometimes I fear that I share too much. But I've always been that way.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Homefront Six said...

My mom just got back from gathering up the last of my Grama's stuff from her apartment. My mom's not usually one to talk about her feelings but this time she had to - she called me several times while she was down there and on her way back.

It was so tough for her as it is for you too. She grew up down there and to see it so utterly devastated...well, it was more than she could handle. I wish I had been there to help her and I wish I were there to help you.

Please know that you have my prayers - I've thought about you often these past 100 days. Let me know if you need anything or see a need down there that needs to be addressed (on the personal level, not the Congressional one).

And I just read that Congress ok'd $29B - not quite $34B but better than nothing?


- hfs

10:58 PM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

hf6,

Thanks for your kind words. I wish I had known your mom was down. It's hard to deal with sometimes and your prayers are always welcome.

I did a post on the 29billion. Great news!!

11:22 PM  
Blogger Esther said...

Karen, posting and talking to friends are all great ways to help you deal with it. But I did that kind of stuff too. I totally thought I had it handled. People always said to me that they couldn't believe how well I was handling it. But I was fooling myself and them. Like I said, it's been 8 years, and I'm still finding ways it affected me. I just wish I had taken everyone's advice from back then to start seeing a therapist and didn't wait 7 years. And my fire destruction wasn't near what you've been through. And I'm a tough cookie.

OK, I will leave you alone now about it. Just know we all care and want to see you taken care of.

10:40 AM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

esther,

My problem has always been surpressing my feelings and not discussing them. This is what the counselor told me to do when I first went to her. I found myself surpressing some of the feelings again and not working through them. I've felt so much better even saying the dreaded words, not rebuild.

But I will keep the thought in mind of going back to counseling if I see I'm not dealing with it.

I do appreciate your thoughts of concern. It seems strange but I stopped reading the Tanakh during this dark period I was going through. I've started reading it again. Currently reading the Isaiah. Wouldn't think that would be too uplifting with the exile to Babylon but it actually is in some strange way. For you know G-d is going to do right by His people.

1:44 PM  
Blogger Esther said...

Karen, you are already better schooled in Judaism than I am. I'm so glad it brings you comfort. It's inspiring. Thanks for taking my words in the spirit I meant them. It would have been easy to get angry. So thank you. You're a very special person. We're all here to help you get through this if you need us. (I don't think anyone would mind me speaking for them) :)

8:57 PM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

esther,

Thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate you guys. You care when it looks like I may have gone off the deep end.

It's funny but I've always felt that way about G-d and His people. I was discussing verses with a Christian and I told him the one verse that always stands out to me is the one that says, "See, I have carved you in the palm of My hand", from Isaiah. He called me a Jew. I just laughed and said you're right.

9:48 PM  

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