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Gulf Coast Reconstruction

Posted Monday, March 24, 2008, at 11:25 PM

My husband & I returned Saturday night from an 11-day visit to the Gulf Coast. We spent 2 nights with my aunt in Pensacola. Then I had a board meeting at the Grand Marriott in Point Clear, AL. That is certainly a beautiful resort. The highlight of the trip was the 5 days we spent with my sister and brother-in-law in Gulfport, MS.

This was not our first visit to the Gulf Coast since the infamous Katrina stormed through on August 29, 2005. We went down in November of that year to take floor tiles for a church building. That was when we saw utter devastation all along the beaches and several miles inland. Restaurants where we had dined earlier that summer were gone -- flattened or washed away. We also were there in April of 2006, and not a lot of reconstruction had taken place. Mostly they were still clearing the property of debris.

This time we took some tools to be used by workers who come in every few months to help with the building program. A large brick building about a block from the ocean serves as a dorm to house the workers. There is another building behind that one, and that is where the food is prepared. The land for these buildings was donated by a gospel singing group. There are so many people who have helped and continue to help those people.

Rebuilding is slow, but it is coming along. Many homes that face the water are being rebuilt. Some could be salvaged and repaired, but not many. Dillard's at the Edgewater Mall reopened a couple of weeks ago. Apartment complexes, condo units, casinos, restaurants, groceries, Wal-Mart, and churches have been rebuilt. We went to my favorite restaurant in the area -- the Blowfly Inn. It was built back in the original location, but 19 steps higher. (I counted.) At first people lived in FEMA trailers. Now they are building these cute little Katrina cottages, which are narrow houses on stilts. They are in lovely pastel colors, but they too are temporary shelters. Many homes and business that were damaged were not directly on the coast.

We rode over 2 brand new bridges. I'm sure everyone saw TV coverage or newspaper pictures of the old bridges that were destroyed, section by section, and left like leaning dominoes.

Waveland, MS was probably the hardest hit area. The utility pipes in that town were completely crushed because of the material they were made of and their age. I remember that utility workers from Nashville went down to work in Waveland. Today it is still sad. There are areas with only one small house to each block. The streets in the old town had open ditches, so evidently no new pipes have been laid yet. Workers and heavy equipment were there on Friday.

This is too long, but so much is in my heart and mind after seeing all of that. There is a great deal of love among the people on the Gulf Coast, and they are receiving so much from others. Thursday the government announced it is sending $200 million to Hancock County, MS to help with reconstruction. It will be appreciated.

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I have relatives who live on the coast and they tell me that New Orleans is the main place where there are still problems and a lot of the hold-up comes from local govt-not federal.

-- Posted by stardust on Fri, Mar 28, 2008, at 11:38 AM

America's leaders have their priorities in the wrong place.

How can we try to prove to the world that we are a loving nation? A democracy? And claim to be peace-seekers.. when all they have to do is see how our government handled catastrophe on it's own territory.

I agree, the current work being done is good progress, but how would any of us like it if it were THREE years later after a storm, and not a single house on your former street had been cleared out and not a single bit of reconstruction had begun. I find it appalling that we can allocate funds to an endless war, yet our Congress fights tooth and nail over how much money they should disperse to its very own country. I'd be all for giving up my "stimulus package money" and letting them send it directly to the renovation of people's livelihoods, in AMERICA.

-- Posted by darrick_04 on Tue, Mar 25, 2008, at 10:49 PM

My one and only trip to the Gulf Coast was just a couple of months before Katrina. I was preparing for a mission trip and went down to spend a couple of nights with one of my teammates in Bay St. Louis, Miss., so that I could work on soapmaking with her. She and her husband and their college-age daughter had just moved into a brand new home in a development near the Bay St. Louis Bridge (they kept apologizing to me because they didn't have window treatments up yet).

Their home was flooded up to the doorknobs during Katrina, but miraculously escaped structural damage, even though the homes on either side (and this was a development where the homes were very close together) were both damaged badly. They also got a view of the Gulf for the first time because so many of the trees and buildings between them and the water were destroyed.

The family has ended up moving away from Mississippi since then, not so much because of Katrina but because of the husband's job.

-- Posted by Jicarney on Tue, Mar 25, 2008, at 10:08 AM

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