It's hard to believe that Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf coast one
month ago today. Time sure goes by fast even when you're NOT having
Life is different now,
and that's an understatement. For the past two weeks, we have been able
to park our little truck camper (which gets smaller and smaller by the
day) at the Dodge dealership on Highway 90 in Bay St. Louis, thanks
to our good friend, John, who was the service manager there before the
home. Sheet metal, broken glass, and nails are all around.
lots of space all around!
We are so indebted to John.
Here we have electricity, a clean, functional restroom, and even a shower!
John is one of those guys who always sees the cup as being half full
and makes the best of every situation. Our shower area is no exception.
He rigged up a truck bedliner to be a shower stall, and so if you can
ignore the constant traffic of the highway just a few feet in the distance,
it's quite private :
view of the shower. Nice and roomy!
View of the shower
The National Guard continues
to be a constant presence, which is comforting given that all of the
police cars in both Bay St. Louis and Waveland were destroyed by Katrina.
Law enforcement from as far away as New York patrol our streets now;
I believe they rotate every 12 days or so. A curfew from 8 p.m. to 6
a.m. ensures that nighttime is quiet.
There are a couple of huge
relief centers set up (thanks to individual church groups) and that's
where we do our "shopping," though no money exchanges hands
of course. We are able to get ice, water, and a limited selection of
food and toiletries. To everyone's excitement, the grocery store in
Diamondhead (about 5 miles away) reopened recently, so now we can get
fresh produce, meat, and COLD MILK. These things are like gold now.
A few businesses are open;
several gas stations, the equipment rental place, a hardware store,
and a tire shop to name a few. No banks, though, not even ATMs. Not
that it matters. There's really nowhere to spend money.
I know y'all would chuckle
at this one, but sometimes we go to the Salvation Army roach-coach for
lunch. The people are ultra nice and the food is hot and filling. They
are usually set up at the post office, so you can pick up your mail
and have lunch all at once. What a convenience!
We applied for a FEMA trailer,
but you can only get those if you have electricity, sewer and water
at your site. And to get those takes an act of God
and a case of
beer. Dave drove all over creation finding out what the rules and regulations
were (the communication between Planning and Zoning/the power company/the
water company is a "cluster," if you know what I mean) and
then had to buy a temporary power pole, AND get it installed (that's
where the case of beer comes in.) God bless the crew from the power
company from Dodge City, Kansas!
include functional traffic lights and postal services. Yesterday I went
to the post office for the first time in a month, and THAT was an experience!
You have to fill out a slip with your name and address and then get
in line (a very l-o-n-g line) and wait for your address to be called.
Watching the event reminded me of "American Idol." Some people
received a huge stack of mail. Others were told that their mail was
in the process of being delivered to their mailbox (a "house"
is not necessarily required; all you need is a mailbox) but time of
actual receipt was uncertain. And others just flat out didn't have any
mail. I felt privileged; we received a BIG BOX (a cover for the truck
dashboard that we had ordered well before the storm.)
Dave spends his days at
our slab (I can't exactly call it "the house" anymore), shoveling
the muck and uncovering stuff, some of which is ours, and the rest,
who knows? He has recovered quite a few of his Craftsman tools, which
are currently soaking in a bucket. After he cleans them up he's going
to get brand, spanking new replacements at Sears (ah, the beauty of
lifetime warranties!) I wonder if the muck will ever disappear. (Side
note: taking the tools back to Sears was a waste of time. Apparently
he was not the first to try and return rust-coated Craftsman tools.)
is covered by at least 8 inches of the stuff. Just when it all dried
out, Hurricane Rita came on the scene. So, last weekend, we evacuated
again. There's so much debris everywhere, and in the parking lot where
we're camped, there's lot of sheet metal and broken glass. We didn't
feel much like being caught in a human meat grinder.
The evacuation process
is easier now since we don't have many possessions. And I'm not really
griping; we just have a VERY simple existence these days. We had already
launched our little Whaler, which was tied to the dock, so we didn't
have to trailer that around. It was simply a matter of putting the camper
back on the truck and head out of town. This time we drove east to Gulf
Breeze (near Pensacola), where our good friends Patti and Sam live.
Being in an honest-to-goodness house again was such a treat! Having
plenty of walking-around space, comfy furniture to lounge in, and having
a washer and dryer at my disposal made me feel like we had won the lottery!
Patti and Sam are the ultimate hosts; we wanted for absolutely nothing
and every meal made us feel gluttonous. But that can be a good thing,
I am volunteering for the
Hancock County Chamber of Commerce at the Small Business Assistance
Center that was set up last week. Counselors from the Small Business
Administration and the University of Mississippi's Small Business Development
Center help business owners complete and file their applications for
loans. I am in awe of the people that have come through the doors. Katrina
has hit these people with a double whammy; they lost their homes AND
their businesses. But given their attitude, you would hardly know it.
They sit and wait patiently (sometimes for more than two hours) for
the next available counselor. No one complains. And when they've been
seen and they're about to leave, many of them stop at the desk and sincerely
thank us for all our help. They are all so grateful.
For the first time since
the storm Dave and I took a drive along the beach yesterday. Unless
you saw it with your own eyes, you would not believe the devastation!
ALL of the homes have been reduced to a pile of rubble. It's impossible
that anyone could have survived. Huge trees are uprooted and items of
clothing are hanging in the branches, as though the entire area was
tee-peed at Halloween. It's so eerie. I commented to Dave that this
is the first time I've ever driven along the beach and NOT looked at
Piles of debris are everywhere,
but thankfully truckloads are being taken away daily. I hesitate to
say that life is getting back to normal, but really, it's not that bad.
Certainly we are tired of "roughing it," and we are soon approaching
a point where we will reach a crossroads; should we stay here in Bay
St. Louis and live in a trailer (assuming we get one) on our slab? Or
should we go to one of the many places we've been offered? Right now
we can only think 24 hours in advance, as making long-range plans is
not possible. But for right now (today), we are ok.
Since we're busy doing
other things, we don't spend much time on the computer so if you haven't
received a response to an e-mail you sent, please don't be offended.
Just know that we appreciate all your thoughts, concern, and prayers.
We will continue to keep you posted as best we can.
Dave and Maria and of course, Jim (who has been just great during all
"Camp on!" is
the message that Bay St. Louis' Champion Dodge now flashes : We think
that's pretty funny.