Monday, August 07, 2006

Biloxi, One Year After Katrina

I went to Biloxi, Mississippi to be in Suzanne's (a friend from architecture school) wedding. She grew up there. Suzanne and I were there for a month or so in 1998. I found myself saying (many times) "Hey Suz- isn't that your favorite smoothie shop?" to which she would reply, "WAS- It's not there anymore." Or "Look- It's the store where we bought..." and Suzanne would say, "Yes, that's where it used to be."

Being in Biloxi was so much more powerful than seeing all the media coverage even though it was a year ago. I think one of the reasons it was more powerful is because we at home saw mostly New Orleans where the damage was pretty bad, but Biloxi got hit the hardest. Along the waterfront, there weren't many buildings left....

Notice the same sign in the background.... This is at Mary Mahoney's- where the rehearsal dinner was held.

I talked to many people about their stories. That is far different from hearing an interview on television as well. I talked to the shuttle driver, the 3rd bridesmaid and the bride's mother among other people. I could tell that they had told their stories many times by the sureness of their words and their lack of emotion but each person saw something positive, even if it was that they bonded with their neighbors by helping to fix each others' roofs.

Cara, the other bridesmaid told about how she and her family of 3 young girls, husband and 2 dogs put all the twin matresses in the hallway. They filled up the bathtub with clean water because it was inevitable that the water would be out. They gave the girls Benadryl to help them to sleep. Cara and her husband would keep checking out the windows to see what had been damaged. A tree fell into their roof and water leaked into the attic. She told of how she remembered from childhood to poke holes in the gypsum on the ceiling to relieve pressure. They put out all kinds of buckets to collect water.

All that's left of the bride's parents' house is the foundation and the studs. They will not have to rebuild from scratch like a lot of people will have to do. Suzanne's mother showed us a Christmas ornament that their neighbors found in their yard. It was beaten up like it had been through the wash many many times. They are waiting to see if the can get a grant from FEMA. The are living in Little Rock, Arkansas for now. I had a conversation with her about traffic as some of the bridges are being rebuilt or are still out. It made sense to me that there was less traffic because some families had been displaced, which would make the problem of less bridges less of a problem. Not necessarily, Judy said- there were lots of construction workers from all over the country here.

But, although the trip was appalling and shocking in so many ways, I had so much fun seeing Suzanne again and helping her get everything ready for the big day. I even got to share a room with her the first two nights so we got to catch up. She looked so stunning! -Not just in that gorgeous wedding dress but she and her (now) husband Joshua lost 70 pounds together! Great job Suzanne and Joshua!!!

Me, Suzanne (the beautiful bride) and bridesmaid/friend Marni


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