Despite 10 years, Katrina scars remain

Published 10:55 am Friday, August 28, 2015

I’m a Katrina survivor.

This weekend, while politicians go to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast to participate in events commemorating the anniversary of one of the most devastating natural disasters in the nation’s history, I will observe this anniversary the same as I have every year, wearing a Katrina T-shirt I bought on the Coast shortly after the storm hit.

It’s hard to forget what happened to our house and the city we called home for 10 years after the hurricane hit the coast and moved across the state. After 9/11, singer Allen Jackson wrote a song called “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning.” My world stopped turning and was forever changed Aug. 29, 2005.

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When Katrina made landfall, I was in the Jackson County Courthouse watching a storm surge eventually measured at over 6 feet inundate downtown Pascagoula and swamp scores of cars in the courthouse parking lot. My wife and daughter were at a hotel in Atmore, Ala., watching tornadoes drop from the sky. She got an early indication of the damage in Pascagoula when she met a Federal Emergency Management Agency worker the next day who told her “I’m sorry,” when he learned where she was from.

Our house took 4-1/2 feet of water from Katrina’s surge, which demolished the contents of our house. We were lucky. We still had a house. People we knew who lived closer to the water were lucky to have a slab. The damage along areas like Beach Boulevard, Washington Street and sections of Market Street in Pascagoula was extensive and debris was scattered across yards, the street and into the Mississippi Sound.

I relived part of that scenario Tuesday night, when I watched a DVD on Katrina produced by the University of Southern Alabama’s meteorology department and was amazed at the video footage it showed of Pascagoula, I couldn’t recognize a neighborhood not more than three blocks south of our home because of the damage and debris.

The one blessing I can take from all this is I, my wife and daughter were not physically injured, although the psychological scars remain in our memories, and I’m sure those scars will open as the rest of the week continues.

If there were any bright lights to the disaster, it was the work of the volunteer and faith-based organizations that appeared almost immediately after the storm and provided food and helped with cleaning up property and making repairs. They set up in church parking lots and shopping centers providing what help they could and turned no one away.

Katrina in many ways was an equalizer. Everyone, regardless of race or economic status was in the same situation, homeless and living in trailers or hotels (courtesy of FEMA), or tents as we began to rebuild.

We’ve now managed to make a new life in a new city, and for the most part have put the horrors of Katrina behind us, although there are times I think what’s happen is all a bad dream and I’ll wakeup back in Pascagoula and it’s a calm spring day.

For a while, I thought I had exorcised my own Katrina demons, but that changed in 2011, when I visited Kings and Ford Subdivision after the 2011 spring flood, and sights and smells of damaged and waterlogged homes brought Katrina back.

And as I interviewed residents in those areas, I could understand and sympathize. I’d been there.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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