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Evacuees thankful but longing to go home

Coping and hoping.

Evacuees from Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday coped with therealities of life in shelters while hoping to hear some good newsabout their homes back in Louisiana or on the Mississippi GulfCoast.

Harriet Cooley, of Harvey, La., was not optimistic about whatshe would have when she is able to return home.

“Nothing … nothing but the tears I’ve had since I’ve beenhere,” said Cooley, her eyes welling up again as she told her storyin a darkened recreation room at First Baptist Church. “If ithadn’t been for this church, I don’t know what we would havedone.”

Cooley, who is four months pregnant, was staying at FirstBaptist with her three children, Warren Evans, Glendale Evans andRobert Cooley III. She said her husband stayed behind in Louisianato be with his father.

“I don’t know where any of my family is,” said Cooley, speakingof her sisters and others.

Cooley chatted Tuesday afternoon with fellow refugee Lisa Hardy.Both were grateful for the shelter.

“I think it’s the best place we could have found,” said Hardy,of Violet, La.

Hardy said she and a church friend, Will Delatte, left NewOrleans at 5 p.m. Sunday. They went as far as Monroe, La., beforecoming back, stopping in Brookhaven at the hospital and beingdirected to the shelter.

“The Lord was good enough to let me find this place,” Hardysaid.

Elsewhere at the church, Norman Dunaway, of Brookhaven, and hisfamily were in a small room after their South Church Street homewas heavily damaged in the storm.

“It destroyed half my office and took the front porch off,”Dunaway said.

Those at First Baptist were among more than 700 refugees inLincoln County staying there and at Faith Presbyterian Church,Easthaven Baptist Church, Saint James M.B. Church and Saint PaulM.B. Church. Kim Carr, an American Red Cross volunteer, said therewere more than 1,200 people in shelters in Lincoln, Pike andLawrence counties.

“We’re on the verge of having to open up Central BaptistChurch,” said Carr, adding that its primary focus was to houseLincoln County residents displaced by storm damage.

Carr said 20 Red Cross emergency response vehicles werescheduled to arrive in Brookhaven sometime today.

Carr and Civil Defense Director Clifford Galey said 18,000self-heating meals ready to eat would be distributed in the LincolnCounty School District parking lot beginning at 11 a.m. for shelterresidents and the public. Any meals not used would be distributedat supper, Galey said.

Allen Addison, of LaPlace, La., said he had spent two nights inBrookhaven at Saint James M.B. Church. He said he lives in alow-lying area and was concerned about his home.

“When it rains real bad, it floods,” Addison said. “I can onlyimagine what this did to it.”

A short distance away, Marrero, La., resident Cathy Smith wasenjoying a game of dominoes with some friends she had met duringher stay in Brookhaven.

“In the midst of all this trouble, you can still have fun,”Smith said.

At First Baptist Church, Joe Davis reported good and orderlyoperations and no incidents. He said Katrina was unlike any otherstorm he’d seen.

“We may have to be here for weeks, I just don’t know,” Davissaid.

At Saint James, the Rev. Larry Jointer said church staff andmembers were cooking meals and taking care of around 100 shelterresidents.

“A lot of our supplies came for the Red Cross, and a lot camefrom our pockets,” Jointer said.

Jointer said the church was fortunate to be able to house wholefamilies in rooms together, if needed. He indicated the church wasprepared for the long haul.

“As long as they stay, we’re going to take care of them,”Jointer said.