‘To Honor Our Journey Through the Storm…’|[8/30/06]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 30, 2006

About 30 people stood with lighted candles along Vicksburg’s City Front Tuesday night to remember those lost and those whose lives were changed forever by Hurricane Katrina.

Hosted by the United Way of West Central Mississippi, the vigil &#8220To Honor Our Journey Through the Storm of Katrina” was attended by local ministers and representatives of nonprofits who did yeoman work tending to evacuees in the weeks and months after the storm.

&#8220Many of us had plans that were changed forever after Aug. 29, 2005,” said Barbara Tolliver, president of the local United Way chapter.

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The agency still receives calls from people from New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast needing information and assistance. Some of them were present for Tuesday’s ceremony under the cloudy skies over the Yazoo Diversion Canal, trading accounts of missing homes and how uncertain their lives remain a year after the most devastating natural disaster to Mississippi and Louisiana.

&#8220My house was in an area where we probably got 8 feet of water,” said Deborah Jones, now living in Vicksburg after leaving her home in New Orleans’ decimated Gentilly neighborhood.

Jones spoke of more than a few extended relatives who were among the teeming scores of people rescued off Interstate 10 by bus and helicopter in the first few horrifying hours after the storm hit and levees failed.

&#8220My nephew wound up in Iowa,” she said. &#8220We didn’t hear from him for months.”

After a musical interlude by New Orleans trumpeter Charlie Miller that included &#8220Amazing Grace” and &#8220Just A Closer Walk With Thee,” the Rev. Chan Osborn de Anaya of Christ Episcopal Church read a poem that recounted the efforts of churches that helped transition evacuees out of shelters and into jobs and housing.

&#8220We now welcome them into our community,” she said. Estimates are about 200 former coastal residents now live in Vicksburg.

The 45-minute vigil was capped by Alton Draper, music minister of New Poplar Grove Church in Utica, who sang &#8220Leaning on the Lord.”

The event mirrored similar candlelight ceremonies and prayer vigils held across the Gulf South and New Orleans geared to remember the lives lost to Katrina.

More than 1,300 deaths were recorded in Louisiana and about 230 in Mississippi.