The first thing you may notice on a drive to the Gulf Coast is how many trees are down. Mississippi, like much of the eastern United States, includes plenty of roadside forests. I was about 100 miles away from the coast and started noticing lots and lots of trees down. Now, my family lives in Central Florida and had three hurricanes travel through their county (Osceola) in 2004. Well they are in the middle of the state, so they only experience catagory 1 winds, but last Christmas when I went down to visit, it noticed lots of damage and lots of trees down. But nothing comes close to what I saw in Mississippi. I knew it would be bad because of how many trees where down an hour or so away from the coast. Now the group traveled down in 9 vans and we stuck in groups of three, which we affectionally refereed to as “Triads”, but back to the story. My triad was the last one in, and it was already dark when we got there, but as we were driving to the Church we were meeting at you could tell that past the darkness that there was some significant destruction.
When the sun rose the next morning, and really the rest of the week for that matter, we had to continually pull our jaws off the floor. A doll in the dirt, a house that had been turned into an parallelogram, a school bus that looks like it was blown up, an entire house sitting on train tracks, slabs on concrete that used to be the foundation for a house, tombs on their side, a car under a house and countless more things that nearly brought me to tears. Now keep in mind, this trip started over two and a half months after the hurricane finished, but it looked like it could of happened last week. I can’t imagine what it really did look like one week after the storm.
Last Christmas in Osceloa country Florida, almost every house was damaged in someway, or at least severe tree damage. In this town, almost every house was completely uninablitable. In fact I did not notice anyone living at their home, the closest I saw was a trailer in their front driveway. And to think we weren’t even in the worst of it. We were in Pass Christian, the towns on either side of this one, were so bad that you had to have a special pass to get in. It wasn’t open to volunteer groups like ours just showing up. And to think that we were in one of the smallest towns in the area. I think criticism of FEMA, the Red Cross, Bush or who ever you want to point fingers at for a slow response are unfortunate. The destruction is so broad and major that I can’t imagine where to start. There are not enough employees, volunteers or housing to go around to handle the significant portion of the population of this county affected by the storm. They could have cleaned off every trailer lot in the country and it wouldn’t even come close. The relief might have been slow, but how to you find places for hundreds of thousands of people to stay in a day or two. Feeding them all would be hard enough. Its a crappy situation, but its amazing what has been done to this point, and amazing how much still needs to be done before the area actually looks like people live there again.
Check out My photo gallery, Asbury College’s Photos (of which I took a couple) and WilmoreToThePass.com for some early pictures and updates of what we did during the trip. I will be posting more pictures and stories in the weeks to come.