The lasting impression Katrina left

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 28, 2006

Tuesday will mark one year since Hurricane Katrina hit the GulfCoast and forced its widespread destruction on our area.

Aug. 29, 2005, will remain one of those dates that we all willremember, just like the date Hurricane Camille hit the coast, thedate John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and Sept. 11, 2001. Likethose dates, we will all remember exactly where and what we weredoing when Hurricane Katrina came to shore.

A year ago Aug. 28, 2005, when I went to sleep on that Sundaynight, Katrina was still churning in the Gulf of Mexico and wasexpected to make landfall sometime Monday.

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We were told to expect winds and power outages, but like all ofthe storms before Katrina, it pretty much went in one ear and outthe other. After all, the same had been said about hurricanesbefore. So, an immediate threat to us here in Brookhaven didn’tseem so dire.

When I got up early Monday morning the weather forecasts weremuch more urgent and Katrina was expected to make its way throughBrookhaven sometime during the afternoon.

The staff at The DAILY LEADER worked hard and fast that morningto get a newspaper out, but a power outage shut us down before thepaper was actually printed. The storm had reached Brookhaven – wayahead of schedule.

It became very apparent that the safest place for employees andcarriers was at home with their families. The plan was to wait outthe storm and report back to the paper Tuesday morning as wenormally do.

By the time Katrina moved through, life was anything but normalfor us or other residents of this area.

We were fortunate at our house, we suffered very little damagefrom the storm, but two of my neighbors fared much worse. ClaraMackabee and Luatrice Taylor both had large oak trees fall on theirhomes. Mrs. Mackabee’s grandson was lying on a bed when limbs fromthe tree came crashing through his ceiling. God was watchingbecause he escaped without a scratch. Ms. Taylor escaped withoutinjury as well, but her home did not. Her 100-year-old house wastotally destroyed by the tree. The place where her home once stoodis now a vacant lot.

In the days following the hurricane, everything we all took forgranted became scarce and hard to come by. The storm had knockedout the electricity and if you wanted gas for your vehicle orgenerator, you had to wait in long lines. Grocery stores wereclosed, because without electricity they couldn’t run registers.Perishable foods were now ruined and canned goods were pretty muchsold out from the stores the Sunday before Katrina. A few of theconvenience stores opened and allowed only a few customers at atime into their stores, but they only accepted cash.

According to most, assistance by way of the Red Cross, FEMA andother agencies was slow coming to Brookhaven. But considering thewidespread destruction, I think they did their best. When water andice were delivered to Brookhaven, the lines were long and tempersflared. Even as electricity was slowly being restored and gasstations began opening, the lines were only things we had heardabout in other places.

I often grumbled under my breath during those first five days. Iwas not accustomed to doing without electricity and the things thatcome with it, such as television and air conditioning. I kepttelling myself I was much better off than those on the MississippiGulf Coast and those at the New Orleans Superdome and I weatheredthrough.

After listening to a customer complain about not having anygasoline, Mary Foster at Foster’s Chevron summed it up best in thedays following Katrina, when she said we have only been”inconvenienced.” She was right. It could have been much worse.

I hope this is the first and last major disaster that I willever have to go through, but because of it, I am much betterprepared and I am still amazed at all of the stories that are stillemerging about the acts of kindness from perfect strangers.

I’ve heard stories of people opening their homes to people leftdisplaced by the storm; stories of people sharing their food andwater with others, when they didn’t know where their next meal maycome from; and the countless hours that people volunteered at areachurches and shelters. The list could go on forever.

It is still amazing how disasters can bring communities togetherand bring out the best in some people, while at the same timebringing out the very worst in others, as evidenced by the lootingand shootings in New Orleans.

When we regained television service at our home, I sat and criedas I watched the newscasts of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. Thephotographs I viewed over the Internet in the days following thedestruction were nothing compared with the live videos fromreporters in the field – the families separated from loved ones,the devastation and destruction, and the hopelessness that was seenin the faces of those that had lost it all.

I have yet to visit the coast or New Orleans since Katrina. Ihave heard that to this day, the destruction is very hard tostomach even though the areas are beginning to rebuild.

For the most part, those locally affected by the storm havepretty much gotten back to their normal everyday lives. I’m sure,though, that while Hurricane Katrina may be gone, she will never beforgotten.

And how was your week?

Lifestyles Editor Tammie Brewer can be reached at The DAILYLEADER at (601) 833-6961 ext. 134, by e-mail or you can write to her at P.O. Box 551,Brookhaven MS 39602.