Four years ago I can say, without cliche, my life changed.
I lived in Ocean Springs, MS at the time, just to the east of Biloxi. I went to school in Gulfport just to the west of Biloxi. I traveled US 90 almost on a daily basis. I knew the area, having lived there twice actually (long story), very well. Highway 90 follows the Gulf Coast beach. It is one of only two ways to go East/West along the southern portion of Mississippi. Don’t take Highway 90 if you’re in a hurry, though. Oy. Tourists and stop lights.
We had just started the new semester; I recall that we had one or two days of class. Of course, we were all trying to figure out which path Katrina would take while making plans to stay in town or bug out. I had pretty well decided to stay. Of all the excuses I could come up with none is truer than that I just wanted to know what a hurricane was like. The sick cat and old car were considerations but merely convenient excuses if the truth is really told.
I sincerely thought that we’d have a couple of days of inconvenience and then everything would be back to normal. I remember that The Constant Gardener with Ralph Fiennes was due out the following Thursday. Since I love Mr. Fiennes I was all gung-ho to see that movie. No, I still haven’t seen it.
I did board up the windows. That’s a pain in the ass. I bought lots of bottled water. I chose canned Spaghetti-Os, cookies, and such to eat. I don’t mind cold Chef Boyardee; call me strange. I also gassed up the car because the authorities said gas could be difficult to get after the storm. Heh!
I went to bed Sunday, August 28th pretty much unconcerned. Call me a dumbass. I remember the power went out at almost exactly 4:00am. That would be the last of that for awhile.
The next morning didn’t start out too bad. Of course, “morning” is subjective ’cause I don’t do 7:00am. More like 10 or 11 for me. I spent most of the day in the bed. Not much else to do without power. I remember I read, but don’t ask me what. Luckily, I had put one board out of whack in the bedroom so I had a bit of room to peak out to watch the storm. Now having that sliver of outside world would probably have driven me nuts. I saw siding and roofing tiles fly by. I watched my neighbors’ roofs come apart. I watched privacy fences fall. I wondered what my house would look like when the storm was done.
I felt the wall shake under my hand. I felt my heart race as I wondered what in the world I had done by staying.
I cried when a couple of days later the little old Red Cross guy came down the street like the ice cream man with water and ice. I felt guilty that he had to do that for us morons who stayed.
I cried when my brother drove down with his father-in-law (whom I had never met) because he was worried when they couldn’t reach me.
I cried when we first ventured out and saw the terrible destruction. The Mississippi Gulf Coast that I knew was gone. Tacky souvenir shops that I hated I now missed. Stately homes with beautiful Magnolia trees reduced to so much trash. Even Jefferson Davis’s home that I had, as a good Yankee, refused to go to was largely rubble.
I was miserable trying to sleep on the front porch in Mississippi in August because it was impossible to sleep indoors.
I cried, and still cry, for Jack. My first pet, my “big boy” who was sick before the storm and died because vet services were impossible to come by.
I left Mississippi. I had never planned to stay. But part of me will always remember those people with whom I suffered, worked, and in some small way rebuilt our little part of Mississippi in defiance of Katrina.
I have posted pictures that mean something to me. I did not take them and truly thank those who did so that we don’t forget.
Katrina would head about due north at this point. New Orleans is just to the right of the 30.
I lived just about where the dark yellow and the light yellow meet. Ocean Springs was relatively lucky; a lot of communities were hit much worse than us.
You would find debris strewn all along the railroad tracks which parallel Highway 90.
A lot of buildings were wiped out on the lower levels as the surge swept through and took everything with it.
Storm surge took everything but the roof.
This is part of Highway 90 in Biloxi. I can’t tell you everything that used to be there but there was a Waffle House (sign still standing), a KFC, a Taco Bell, and a Shell gas station.
I had eaten at the Bombay Bicycle Club alot the first time I lived in Biloxi. I believe it had closed or was due to close when Katrina hit. Didn’t matter by the time she left.
The Ocean Springs Bridge linked Ocean Springs with Biloxi along Highway 90. I would guess it was about a mile long. Most of the sections were torn apart during the storm. The first picture of the bridge has Biloxi in the background. Those large buldings are the hotels for the casinos. You can also see, to the right of the streetlight, a domed building that is slightly askew. That
is was the Palace Casino which is not on the Gulf at all. I cannot imagine the wind and water that it took to damage that structure.
This is what was left of the Treasure Bay Casino. It is hard to get a sense of how big the boat was but it was a good sized casino. Katrina ripped through that and picked it clean.
This is the Grand Casino in Gulfport actually in the middle of Highway 90. The storm picked that barge up and moved the whole thing 20-40 yards.
Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis’s last home, before Katrina.
Two years after Katrina.
I used to hate the Sharkshead sovenir store. Giant, tacky, pink with an enormous shark’s head. I’d give anything for that store to be the way it was now.
The Biloxi lighthouse. It sits in the median of Highway 90. That the lighthouse was still standing meant alot to us. I was amused that the palm fronds and pine tree branches were all stuck pointing north from the wind. My brother was not so amused.
This neighborhood is not that far from where I lived, although I was not that close to the beach. A friend of mine had a house down the street from where this picture was taken. When she and her husband left their house to go to Jackson they knew they would lose everything they left behind. I don’t know that they ever came back.
This is it for me. I won’t forget, ever, that hellish week after Katrina. I won’t forget the rebuilding that has been done and hope for that which still waits to be done. But I won’t commemorate any more. I’ll probably always pause when the significance of the date occurs to me, much like I do on the date of my mother’s passing. But it’s time to look forward to the rest of my life. I have other stories still to be written.