Thursday, August 31, 2006
From Dr. Bob:
" Dear Friends and family,
The first anniversary of Katrina's visit here on the Gulf;f Coast has come and gone, and Ernesto has become a distant whimper. Every day for the past 2 weeks, giant billows of STORM CLOUDS have appeared across the coastal skies. I do not have the poetic words to describe how beautiful and magnificent these masses of condensing atmospheric water can be, especially in the angled light of sunrise or sunset. The sheer bulk of these clouds, and their height, is astounding and awesome. Moreover, this display is inspiring, not frightening. It is more like a show, an artistic exhibition, and not at all like a threat to life and property.
I suppose that the August skies of Mississippi's Gulf Coast have been this way since time immemorial. I know, even in the short time I have been here, how this awesome beauty convinced so many people that they should settle here, set down their generations of roots, and raise up families and communities so enamored of this place.
Living was easy, and peaceful, friendly and, for the most part, secure. Locals felt comfortable and safe in their close knit communities and neighborhoods. Some even found a way to prosper here, but even those who did not, could fall back on the "rich blessings" of an extended, ever present family or circle of close friends, known and faithful since childhood.
Then, August 29th, 2005, Katrina paid a devastating visit, and everything changed: STORM CLOUDS ON THE HORIZON became a malevolent harbinger of unstoppable destruction. For those who did not, or could not flee, death, or at best terror, took its toll. Those who fled, returned to witness their communities and homes unrecognizable, and to experience the dread and/or hopelessness of ever recovering their former lives.
Now it is August 30th, 2006 - a year and a day beyond Katrina. In Biloxi and Gulfport 95% of the debris that was an everpresent reminder of what happened, has been removed. In its place is a lot - too much - of empty space, and the kind of eerie quiet that comes from the relative absence of human re-inhabitation. Of the homes and businesses still standing (not yet demolished) in East Biloxi, Bay St. Louis, and portions of many other Coastal towns, less than 20 % of these are inhabited today, or show any signs or repair or reconstruction. Here and there are bright, clean, newly-constructed, or partly constructed homes and businesses amidst a virtual sea of bulldozed empty lots. Large portions of these cities - where there was relatively mild or moderate wind or water damage - are back to their pre-storm appearance, activity and occupancy. There, one could hardly detect Katrina's visit, save for the sparseness of leaves or branches on mature trees that were stripped by Katrina's winds. In those neighborhoods, a future of progress and promise is noteable. But at ground zero (eg. East Biloxi and Bay St Louis and Waveland) only the white sand beaches, centuries- old Live Oak trees, AND, the beautiful STORM CLOUDS ON THE HORIZON , offer promise and a future beyond Katrina.
What about the people then ? Ahh. Here there is extraordinary promise. A depth and a wealth of strength, resilience, persistence, determination, and - most important in my view - faith. A deep, spiritual faith in a God that is merciful and generous and forgiving and loving. A faith in the power of people cooperating and working together in families, organizations, or communities to get things done. Yes, houses and homes are important places in which to mature and feel safe, but as I listen to people's hopes and dreams, I see these 'structures' important more as symbols of the possibility of rising above losses, standing up with heavy burdens, and recreating a productive and satisfying life for self and family and community. Such rebuilding is tenuous, and people know it is. They are not unaware that Casinos, Condominium developments, boutique stores, entertainment centers, tourism, and an influx of visitors will change the heart and soul of this part of America. I believe many are preparing themselves - 'practicing', if you will - to move on, either to a new place, or to into a changed old place. Preparing to survive, thrive, and succeed in nurturing the best of the caring and compassionate communities they grew up with."
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
"George, from Pennsylvania writes:
I am assuming volunteers are still needed to help the people affected by Katrina,correct?"
Excellent question George. And the answer is yes.
In a report released this month, the Corporation for National and Community Service found that more than half a million Americans have journeyed to the Gulf Coast in the past year to volunteer in hurricane relief and recovery efforts. The figures compiled by the agency also reveal that tens of millions more people, while not traveling to the Gulf region, supported relief efforts in a variety of ways.
But, the true transformation of a stronger and better Gulf Coast will require a sustained commitment over time. In the months ahead, volunteers will continue to play an integral role in rebuilding and reinvigorating the area."
While George may get points for asking the easiest question ever, the answer is right on. Convince a friend to go with you to volunteer!
"Signs of Life is a moving collection of photos of the hand-made signs that appeared in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. Profits from sales of the book will go to two organizations still working in the area: Common Ground Relief and Hands On Network.and yes I do have at least one picture in the book :) But buy it anyways!
Hand-made signs—spray painted on houses, on cars, on refrigerators—were some of the first 'signs of life' to appear after the flood waters receded. The signs range from the sacred to the profane, from defiant to defeated, from frightening and encouraging. The signs reveal a powerful story of those who survived the deluge.
Compiled by Eric Harvey Brown and Lori Baker, New York-based photographers and writers who volunteered in the Gulf Coast after the hurricane, Signs of Life shows not only the traces of the violence of the storm, but also that much devastation remains one year later"
There is MUCH work to be done!!
"As a matter of fact, now is the time to renew our commitment to let the people down here know that we will stay involved and help the people of Mississippi rebuild their lives."
He mentioned Handson and Suzanne by name. :)
Monday, August 28, 2006
One show that I definitely want to record is TLC's Volunteer story:
"Motivated by sheer personal determination to help people who need them, the group gets itself to the Red Cross headquarters in Gulfport, Mississippi, and eventually ends up working in one of the worst hit areas of Mississippi. In some cases, this group is the first to arrive to devastated areas. The personal-view footage of the devastation from the passenger seat of the ERV (Emergency Response Vehicle) is unlike any ever seen. The volunteers describe what it is like to smell death for the first time; to see houses completely off of their foundations and entire towns lay to waste."
From Yahoo News:
Wow. This could be HUGE. And while I wish it hadn't come to this, if the reports are true, then hats off to the two sisters!
The sisters, who managed teams of State Farm adjusters, say the documents show that the insurer defrauded policyholders by manipulating engineers' reports so that claims could be denied.
"I think we've given him the smoking gun," Cori Rigsby, 38, told The Associated Press during a recent interview at the home she shares with her sister near Ocean Springs.
State Farm spokesman Phil Supple said the Bloomington, Ill.-based company is reviewing the sisters' allegations but hasn't been allowed to question them.
"State Farm's employees are committed to conducting themselves in an ethical and appropriate manner," Supple said. "Any suggestions to the contrary are simply wrong."Hundreds of homeowners on Mississippi's Gulf Coast have sued their insurance companies for refusing to pay for millions of dollars of damage from Katrina. A judge who presided over the first Katrina insurance trial ruled this month that Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. must pay for damage caused by wind but not from flooding, including storm surges"
Sunday, August 27, 2006
"Like a half-completed drawing in a child’s coloring book, the picture is starting to fill in. There are shadows and firmer outlines, a few promising, some of them menacing.
New Orleans will almost certainly be smaller than it was. Repopulation has slowed to a trickle, leaving the city with well under half its prestorm population of 460,000. It will probably have fewer poor people; its housing projects remain essentially closed, and many poorer neighborhoods are still devastated. With inexpensive housing scarce and not being built, partly because of the paralysis in recovery planning, it is easier for the middle class than the poor to return."And Later:
"Neighborhoods ruined now will probably shrivel further, planning experts say. The Lower Ninth Ward, still a barren wasteland, is unlikely to be rebuilt anytime soon, if at all. Gentilly, a classic 1920’s and 30’s New Orleans neighborhood of Arts and Crafts-style stucco houses with wide overhanging eaves, is coming back only fitfully, with a few trailers visible in front yards of once-flooded houses."
Friday, August 25, 2006
|SURVIVING KATRINA is a two-hour special premiering Sunday, August 27 at 9 PM ET/PT on the Discovery Channel, profiles ordinary Americans who forged ahead through death-filled waters, mass confusion and devastation to save others.|
This is just one of many shows on both Katrina and the storm's aftermath. Also look for PBS's show on rebuilding Biloxi (also on Sunday I am afraid).
"One year after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, we'll talk to the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, to assess the accomplishments and struggles his city has faced on its road to recovery. We'll also ask him about his latest controversial comment defending New Orleans' clean-up efforts by criticizing the progress of rebuilding at New York City's Ground Zero.
Then, David Paulison, the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will be here to discuss the effectiveness of the federal government's efforts to aid those hit by last year's storm. And, as we move into this year's peak hurricane season, how prepared are we for what some forecasters say could be a very active couple of months in the Atlantic?"
From the Buffalo News
"President Bush cautioned against placing too much importance on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's Gulf Coast strike, saying a long, sustained rebuilding effort still is needed.
"It's a time to remember that people suffered, and it's a time to recommit ourselves to helping them," Bush said Wednesday. "But I also want people to remember that a one-year anniversary is just that, because it's going to require a long time to help these people rebuild.""
Friday, August 11, 2006
"McCusker, a Times-Picayune photographer for about 20 years, was booked with aggravated battery and aggravated flight from an officer, both felonies, Arey said Thursday. He said McCusker was in a psychiatric hospital.and later:
"He's a great guy, a great photographer and we're all pulling for him," said newspaper managing editor Peter Kovacs.
"McCusker is mentioned in a feature on the city's travails in the current issue of American Journalism Review, saying he went back to work June 20 after a monthlong leave.
During the leave, the article says, McCusker spent much of his time sleeping off exhaustion and attending therapy sessions three times a week. He told the magazine he'd essentially become nonfunctional.
"You have to understand the depth of the horror that the city was," McCusker says in the article. "Tens of thousands of people on the freeways stranded. The children begging for food and water. The looting at the Wal-Mart. It was of biblical proportions."
"This marks an especially dangerous time for residents in areas still largely destroyed by Katrina, said Dr. Jessica Henderson Daniel, director of training and psychology at Children's Hospital in Boston.Daniel, in New Orleans for a convention of the American Psychological Association, said the storm's anniversary will spark new feelings of loss and more emotional and physical stress"
Thursday, August 10, 2006
"Phil McGraw, who brought his "Dr. Phil" show to New Orleans just after Hurricane Katrina, returned this week to tape follow-up episodes that will air in the coming weeks.Haven't they suffered enough? First Katrina, then Rita, now Phil? (sorry I couldn't resist ;) ) I realize he means well and many really like him.
Since touring the city by boat in early September, the popular TV psychologist has used his show to focus on New Orleans' recovery efforts and post-Katrina stress and mental health challenges, particularly for first responders."
From the Herald.net:
"The biggest fear of many still in Biloxi of being forgotten has some basis....one international tragedy after another took headlines and attention: Iraq, Afghanistan, the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah. They echoed the movie "Wag the Dog" in which foreign wars are faked in order to distract Americans from domestic problems.They still need volunteers! Why not take an extra day for Labor day and go down for 4 or 5 days? You will do a world of good!
When wars didn't make headlines, officials have focused on gay marriage, stem cell research and estate taxes.
Meanwhile, families live in cramped FEMA trailers rooted by sewer connections to the front lawns of their gutted middle-class homes. This month, a year after Katrina, they must start paying rent on those trailers as well as their mortgages."
For instance the Volunteer BBQ that was held in Hiller Park, the clean-up of the coastal waters, and an update on the repairs of Hope Six houses (yeah the ones we helped demold! :) )
A few look-ins:
"This past month saw a HUGE expansion in the volunteer numbers present in Sawit....This is exciting because it has increased our impact in the community. Where prior it may take up to 4 days to complete the "ruins" removal from the footprint of a house it now takes a single day to clean most areas! The month of August has a steady number of about 15 volunteers with us throughout."AND
"In an effort to expand the opportunities for our volunteers and allow the children to experience a native English speaker we are now helping at least 2 days per week at the school. The Headmaster of the local primary school has welcomed a number of our volunteers at her school. The students are currently attending classes in an old fashioned military type tent whilst their school is being rebuilt. HODR volunteers have made lesson plans, taught mathematics, English (duh!), and generally assisted wherever they could. Nothing like having eighty 6-9 year olds under one tent being taught by 4 different teachers!! You should try!"btw Pictures of their work are available on Flickr.
GREAT job people!
Almost a year later the stress is still there, indeed, in some ways it is worse. Most are trying to deal with it in their own way, but occasionally it just bubbles over. This can happen to anyone. In the following story it happens to a professional photographer for the Times-Picuayune.
He had just found out how much (or better how little) he was being reimbused by his insurance company for his destroyed home. And he broke. The stress had broken down his will to live.
Fortunuately for him his attempt (a so-called "suicide by cop" attempt) failed and he is now on suicide watch. However, what about the thousands of others going through hte same thing?
The story is available in a text format and video from WDSU.
"A New Orleans police officer is recovering and a Times Picayune photographer is in jail.Police said John McCusker rammed an officer between cars during a suicidal standoff.It started when police pulled McCusker over for driving erratically. Investigators said McCusker shouted, "Just shoot me."Remember this stress of Katrina is still being felt by millions and sometimes it just gets to be too much. You can help. Go volunteer today!
" Psychologists are warning about a surge in mental health issues as the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaches."
"There's been a lot of talk about the threat to coastal areas of sea level rise, and that is a very, very real issue ... but one that is going to unfold over a period of decades, if not a century," said Bill Chameides, Environmental Defense's chief scientist, in a telephone news conference.
"What we think will actually be a more immediate risk to coastal areas ... is the threat of storm surge, which is actually exacerbated by sea level rise due to these growing-intensity storms," Chameides said.
Using U.S. government data, the scientists created maps showing flood risk areas in Wilmington, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina, and Miami...."
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
"Since the Carter administration, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, a landmass about half the size of Rhode Island has vanished. Katrina and Rita alone transformed 225 square miles of marsh into open water, much of it in Plaquemines Parish.Why? Levees and oil"
The potential consequences are cataclysmic. The barrier islands and wetlands south of New Orleans provide a vital bulwark against hurricanes; without them, the city would be completely exposed to the ocean. By some calculations, Plaquemines Parish and its surroundings - even in their diminished state - may have cut Katrina's surge by as much as six feet."
"Today artificial levees protect the city from floods, but they also prevent the river from depositing sediment. Funneled south by its levees, the Mississippi now dumps most of its silt over the edge of the continental shelf. Nothing builds up the land.
Exacerbating the problem is Louisiana's huge oil and gas infrastructure: Thousands of miles of pipelines and navigation channels slice through the coastal wetlands, bringing saltwater inland and killing the plants that prevent the wetlands from washing away.
Bringing back coastal Louisiana will be an ecological-restoration project of unprecedented scale, complexity, and cost - an estimated $14 billion - but it's doable. The real question is political will."
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
"Students at Kreole Elementary School will have a new playground, complete with up-to-date safety features in a design created by the students.
Myya Robinson, communications director for the Moss Point School District, said about 300 volunteers signed up to help build the playground sponsored by KaBOOM!"
Now from the Biloxi Sun Herald:
"NEW ORLEANS - Federal authorities will review last year's blockade of a Mississippi River bridge by armed police officers who turned back Hurricane Katrina evacuees trying to flee New Orleans.I remember watching TV coverage of this incident and was totally revolted. I hope the investigations get to the bottom of it!!
The investigation will be carried out by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Orleans, along with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Jan Mann said Friday.
Several hundred evacuees claimed that police from suburban Gretna blocked them as they tried to flee New Orleans for safety on Sept. 1."
Friday, August 04, 2006
Personally, I have to say that the Salvation Army has done a GREAT job following Katrina. and I will gladly put money into the Kettle! Indeed, they were one of a VERY few national charities that I will still give to after seeing the responses.
"Many forget that the Salvation Army is a church, knowing it instead for the bells its volunteers ring to raise money during the holidays or for its thrift shops.
But the army’s real “business,” effectively putting into practice what it preaches, is operating a network of housing for the elderly, transitional housing for struggling families, summer camps and what are called “corps centers,” where services range from after-school programs to drug rehabilitation.
The organization also does disaster relief work. After Hurricane Katrina, victims, public officials and emergency workers spoke glowingly of the help the army had given them, often contrasting it with services from the American Red Cross.
Army officials cringe at the competition that such comparisons might suggest, but welcome the donations the attention is attracting. The army raised more than $360 million for hurricane victims, a fraction of the billions raised by the Red Cross but more than four times what it has raised for any other disaster and more than three times what its biggest annual fund-raising effort, the Christmas kettle drive, brought in last year.
From City of Biloxi's website:
"On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, The Home Depot, KaBOOM!, Playworld Systems and Hands On Network will mobilize thousands of volunteers to come together in Gulf Coast communities from New Orleans to Pascagoula to build 10 new playspaces in just four days, including two in Biloxi.
Nearly a thousand volunteers are expected to participate in the Biloxi projects, John Henry Beck Park and Miramar Park. Each playground was designed by the children who will use it and is being planned with local residents."Later:
"Besides the Biloxi sites, others are Nelson UNO Charter School (New Orleans); Second Street Elementary School (Bay St. Louis); Carolyn Park Middle School (Slidell); Pass Christian High School (Pass Christian); Owen T. Palmer Park (Gulfport); Carol Vegas Park (Bay St. Louis); Central Elementary School (Pascagoula); and Hancock Medical Center (Bay St. Louis).
"We want this 'week of play' to show the Gulf Coast children and communities that we have not forgotten,” said Darell Hammond, CEO and co-founder of KaBOOM! “At the same time, we need to remind the rest of the country that there is still a lot of work to do in the areas that were affected by the storms."Great job!!!
A few "look-ins":
* "Gamblers already have flocked back to Biloxi, wagering $375 million at the three casinos open in the first half of the year. That's nearly 70% of what was wagered a year earlier in the nine casinos operating before Katrina struck, state officials say.
*Mississippi's 1990 law legalizing the casino business had required all gambling to take place offshore, which restricted operations to riverboats on the Mississippi or barges docked along the Gulf Coast. The law made it difficult for casino owners to integrate their gambling sites with other parts of their properties. "
*"The gambling industry found new leverage in the storm's wake. In the 15 years since it was legalized, casinos had become the region's key economic driver....A compromise was forged to allow gambling facilities to move on land within an 800-foot-wide strip along the shoreline."*The casino operators have been spurred by a post-Katrina federal tax credit designed to encourage rebuilding after the storm. The credit applies to construction of nongambling facilities, including hotels, restaurants and retail outlets, that open for business along the Gulf Coast before the end of 2008.
*"A year after Katrina passed through, Biloxi's Mayor Holloway continues to grapple with a critical housing shortage, skyrocketing construction costs and squabbles with state agencies over badly needed road repairs. But he has worked hardest at reviving the casinos. The 67-year-old mayor began his fourth term last July -- a month before Katrina. The city's future, he says, depends on companies like MGM Mirage and Harrah's putting Biloxi in the same sentence as Las Vegas and Atlantic City."
*"On Mr. Holloway's city hall desk is a massive three-ring binder containing details of a master plan proposed for the eastern part of the city. In the plan, a new four-lane boulevard would wrap around the city's eastern edge, with casinos dotting the waterfront. The design is packed with high-rise condominiums and parks."
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Handson GulfCoast had been having a music tournement (modeled after the NCAA basketball Tourney) where each night the volunteers listened to two songs and voted on the best. From the HandsonGulfcoast blog:
"Recap of the end of the last one: Superstition defeats Bohemian Rhapsody in the Final Four. Don't Stop Believing defeats Piano Man in the Final Four. In the Hands On Music Tournament Final, Don't Stop Believing loses to Stevie Wonder's Superstition. Well played."They are now planning a new contest with only "new" music.
"From the beginning Spike Lee knew that Hurricane Katrina was a story he had to tell. Watching the first television images of floating bodies and of desperate people, mostly black, stranded on rooftops, he quickly realized he was witnessing a major historical moment. As those moments kept coming, he spent almost a year capturing the hurricane’s sorrowful consequences for a four-hour documentary, “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts,” to be shown on HBO this month."later:
"Mr. Lee said he intended most of the “Levee” stories to come from the ordinary people who endured the Superdome’s makeshift shelter or long searches for loved ones. So “Levees” includes many people like Phyllis Montana LeBlanc, depressed and outraged after her family was evacuated to different places around the country and she waited four months for a government trailer. “Not just the levees broke,” she says in the film. “The spirit broke.”"
"The critics and audience will have the final say on whether “Levees” is the thorough examination that Mr. Lee intends. His views are clear. “What happened in New Orleans was a criminal act,” he said....
Douglas Brinkley, the author of “The Great Deluge,” a book about Hurricane Katrina said: “When I heard Spike Lee was coming down, I felt grateful. I thought the media perspective — while good — still showed that a lot wasn’t being asked.” Mr. Lee is “grappling with the larger question of why so many African-Americans distrust government,” said Mr. Brinkley, a professor of history at Tulane University, who appears in the film.
Mr. Lee said he hopes to return to the people profiled in “Levees.”
I hope there is a DVD. I do not get HBO
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
From the Sun Herald:
"Dr. Hunter Phillips III, a Biloxi dermatologist, said, "We have seen a ton of unusual rashes, but none that I can pinpoint directly on metal poisoning. Heavy metal problems may take longer to develop. I wonder, though, whether (Katrina caused) the soil to change to grow more virulent fungi...."
"Wilma Subra, a chemist and microbiologist who owns environmental consulting firm Subra Company, took tidal sediment samples along the Coast after the hurricane. Those samples came back with high levels of bacteria, yeast, mold and the toxic metalloid arsenic, she said...Officials at Mississippi's Department of Environmental Quality have said that South Mississippi soils naturally contain heavy metals like arsenic, and Subra's results fall within that range."