Gulf Coast Day 5: The Wake in Waveland

There is so much destruction up and down the Mississippi coast that you can become inured to the sight of bombed out buildings and concrete ...
by | July 21, 2006
 

Dscn2506 There is so much destruction up and down the Mississippi coast that you can become inured to the sight of bombed out buildings and concrete slabs where someone's home used to sit. Then you see Waveland. This little town took Katrina's punch square in the nose, and it shows. The surge here came in as high as the trees, someone told me. Not that there are too many trees left, or anything else, to look at.

City hall (pictured) was one of the casualties--it's just gone--though, in one of those bizarre ironies that somehow fluorish amidst chaos, the building's Hurricane Camille memorial and comemorative sign made it. Mayor Tommy Longo and some incredibly dedicated city employees and volunteers are working their butts off in a makeshift campus of double-wide trailers (picture after the jump).

Dscn2505 Something that one of the volunteers said won't leave my mind. She knew a guy whose home had been severely damaged, and who literally worked himself to death. A lot of the people who live here are retired, and aren't necessarily in the best shape to fix up their homes in the heat and humidity here. "They're here to retire, not to start their lives over," the volunteer said.

Maybe more disturbing is what Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway told me earlier this week. Holloway noted that Katrina killed 53 of his constituents. Then he said there was no telling how many more had died from what he called "Katrina syndrome," long after the storm. "We've had a lot of suicides, and people reporting suicidal tendencies," Holloway said.

Almost a year later, the human toll from this storm continues to grow. Still I've been awed by the optimism of many people I've spoken with this week, and how so many are able to laugh at their own hardships. In Waveland, a couple of Mayor Longo's aides told me some nicknames for the cramped FEMA trailers so many people are unhappily camped out in. They call them "FEMA Bemers" and "can-dominiums."

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