Lost in Translation

There has been much controversy about the news reports of what President Bush said when about the levee breaches in New Orleans. The AP has since printed a correction about the timelines and what President Bush actually said. Confederate Yankee has a good post about this.

In the days before Hurricane Katrina hit, President Bush declared Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama as disaster areas so that state and local governments could have in place federal emergency help when needed. I know Mississippi's Governor Haley Barbour acted promptly and swiftly and had plans in place to help us out along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

I remember President Bush appearing several times on the news in the days before she hit what a danger that Hurricane Katrina poised.

But what President Bush said is not the story. The story is the lives of those in New Orleans and in Mississippi. I can't tell you about New Orleans but I can tell you about the people in Gulfport, Biloxi, D'Iberville, Long Beach, Pass Christian, St Martin, Waveland, and other cities along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Our world was shattered a little over 6 months ago on the morning of August 29. A whole way of life was changed overnight. Most of y'all reading this saw the pictures of destruction long before I was able too. You see, after I made it back to my home in Gulfport after evacuating to my sister's home 20 miles inland, I did not leave my house for 3 days, only venturing out when the FEMA trucks arrived with ice and water.

With no electricity, there were no gas stations open. The only lifeline I had to the outside world was a radio. Cell phones were useless and though I had a dial tone on my land line, I could only call two numbers.

But I remember listening to that radio. I remember thinking, my G-d. For in my drive back to my home, I saw the fallen trees, the damaged homes, the power lines and poles that criss-crossed the roads 12 miles north of the beach. But what the radio was reporting about the destruction along the beachfront was and is still unimaginable.

I finally drove to Biloxi 9 days after Katrina hit so I could visit my Mom and sister. The tears from the destruction along Pass Road were bitter. But I still hadn't seen the beachfront.

I drove to place I work in D'Iberville 15 days after Katrina. The offices were gone. The seafood plant was gone. All the inventory in the cold storage was gone. A lot of the homes along the streets surrounding the plant were gone or severely damaged. But I still had not made it to the beachfront.

In October, I finally made the drive into Biloxi and parked my car about a 1/2 mile from Biloxi Small Craft Harbor. I walked down to the beach and saw for the first time what Katrina had done. I had to walk because Hwy 90 which runs along the beach was still closed.

In November, I finally made it to the beach in Gulfport. My brother told me the route to take to avoid the barbed wire and checkpoints. My first view was the Markham building. My second view was the First Baptist Church. Then I walked across Hwy 90 and went to the harbor.

Words cannot begin to describe what it's like to see the destruction of your hometown. Places that you used to go to are no longer there. Even the funeral home where services were held for your Dad is no longer there.

Pictures cannot even describe what it's like down here. The miles and miles of utter desolation.

And this is the story that is being lost by games of semantics and of accusations. I don't think anyone or any government can truly be prepared for the amount of destruction that was wrought. No one can imagine a wall of water anywhere from 40 feet in Hancock County to 28 feet in Harrison County demolishing everything in it's path. The Sunherald calls Katrina our tsunami and that's an apt description.

All the political bickering and fighting is not helping us down here. It's distracting from the job that needs to be done. Help is still needed and even though things are getting better day by day, there is so very much more rebuilding to be done.

I have over a thousand pictures now of the destruction of the cities that I love, Biloxi and Gulfport. I do not know how to let others know of the task that is facing us. I have written hundreds of posts about it but you have to see it to believe it. You have to live with the daily frustrations. You have to get used to the debris trucks carting off home after home. You have to get used to the gallows humor of an insurance agent, "Hey, your premium is going down! There's less to insure!".

You have to hold back the tears at work as you are preparing W-2 forms and it suddenly hits you that half are going to workers whose homes no longer exist. Around 70 in all. And those homes were inland.

And your retail customers still call and drive by everyday hoping that you are now open and you have to tell them it'll be a couple of more months.

You listen to the incredible stories of those who were trapped in their homes and did survive. And you thank G-d everyday that no one you knew died.

You are able to rejoice with small victories of those who have lost everything. The news that they were finally able to get a FEMA trailer, that the blue roof has been replaced with a beautiful new roof.

You rejoice that the guy who cuts grass for a living and lost all of his tools was given a riding lawnmower. Small but important victories.

If people really want to know what the issues are that need resolution and investigation, below are a few:

People have to fight insurance companies for covered damages. Only one insurance company says that it still cover wind damage. The flood plain maps which the National Flood Insurance Program provides to determine who needs flood insurance were grossly inadequate. Half of the 68,000 homes destroyed by Katrina's storm surge were not on the 100 year flood plain maps.

Why aren't serious questions being asked about the flood plain maps provided by the NFIP? Those maps are probably just as inaccurate in the area you live.

Why isn't someone asking the insurance companies why they aren't paying claims for damages covered? Especially after a year of record breaking profits even after all the hurricanes Florida suffered in 2004.

Why isn't a outcry being made that once again, insurance companies are abandoning the state of Mississippi? There's only one insurance that says it will still provide wind damage coverage. They pulled the same trick after Hurricane Camille in 1969.

Why is there so much resentment by some that federal money is being allocated to help us rebuild in Mississippi?

These are the issues for Mississippi. This is what is getting lost in translation.


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