Welcome to Mississippi

Wake up calls were early this morning, way before the sun rose in Pensacola, Florida. After bidding goodbye to our reliable bus driver, Ron, we loaded into our vans, headed for Biloxi, Mississippi.
What awaited us across the boarder was certainly not what I expected. I have followed the news regarding the devastation across the Gulf Coast but never did I expect to see the unfortunate circumstances I saw from my van seat. One would expect that 5 months after Katrina, the city of Biloxi would seem somewhat improved. What I witnessed today gave the impression that the storm occured much more recently.
The pastor of the church we are staying at guided us through a large neighborhood of completely detroyed, if not utterly washed away homes. Although one could never imagine people living in residences like this, individuals were sitting on their front porches, enjoying the afternoon. Most houses were labeled, with insurance companies names and numbers, but most shocking were the other statements in spray paint, such as "FEMA, where are you?", "Do not demolish", "Together we will rebuild." Christmas decorations adorned some houses, lights hanging from broken roofs, Christmas trees standing in empty lots or on a front porch, although those porches had no house attached.
After our tour we split onto worksites. My group had the opportunity to assist Ms. D and her two children with the demolition of their home. Ms. D certainly welcomed our help, she didn't know exactly where to start and was content letting us lead the way. We spent most of the day taking down molded sheet rock and baseboards. We came across old pictures and househols items, although with the condidtion of the area, who knew who anything belonged to. The homes in their community varied in level of damage, although garbage was spread across every lawn.
As I picked up garbage beside the oldest daughter we discussed her time away from school and the things she missed most when home for a month. We picked up CDs and clothing scattered across her backyard, some of which she didn't even recognize as her own family's. However, our conversation mostly revolved around pop culture and school, I could tell that speaking about her life post-Katrina was not completely comfortable for her, and discussing the newest movies was a small, albeit comforting relief.
I haven't exactly had time to process what I experienced today, attempting to describe it at this moment would be inadequate. Currently, I am extremely anxious, anxious to get back to work tomorrow and help another survivor. --Jane Nolan

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