Katrina altered more than landscape

Published 7:56 pm Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The older I get, the more it seems time speeds along. But could it really be 13 years already?

It was exactly 13 years ago today that the area of Mississippi known to me as “home” was forever altered in the aftermath of devastation from a national disaster that had never before been seen in our nation.

The memories remain as fresh as if it happened yesterday. So raw in my mind that throughout this week, as many of my “friends” on social media who also recall Hurricane Katrina post videos of the before and after, force me to scroll past because I don’t want to be reminded of the heartache and visuals of that time.

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After all, I lived it and saw it all too well.

Hurricane Katrina changed the reality of normal for every person I know who experienced it more than a decade ago.

The destruction and carnage is well documented. And everyone who ever went through the worst natural disaster in U.S. history has their own personal story to tell.

My story began on the weekend before the storm’s arrival.

On Saturday, Aug. 27, 2005, I was in the newsroom of the Picayune Item working feverishly to finish up the Sunday edition so it could go to press early and allow the carriers to deliver the edition ahead of the storm hitting the Mississippi coast.

After boarding up windows at the newspaper, we rushed and got that Sunday edition complete and headed our separate ways to prepare for the storm.

I made the drive to Lizana and hunkered down with my family, checked to make sure my 8-year-old daughter was safe with her mother and waited.

And on the afternoon of Sunday, Aug. 28, the wait was over.

After continuous rain bands pushed through the area all day and into the night Sunday, the hurricane-force winds blasted through just after midnight and didn’t let up for hours. The combination of wind and rain is something I will never forget. At times we could see the walls of the house move in and out from the pressure.

But my family was one of the lucky ones. With the exception of my younger brother, we still had homes that did not have power for days and weeks.

The first two to three weeks following the storm, I and several other co-workers, lived and worked at the Picayune Item. Some even brought their families. We set up an outdoor camp shower and since we didn’t have power for the first two weeks, we used a generator to power up computers but could only use two or three at a time. We also had other reporters from around the country living and working at our building.

There were so many tragic stories from Katrina, but so many more feelgood stories as well. The main story and what I like to tell people when they ask about Katrina is the humanity that was shown from just about everyone. It was truly neighbors helping neighbors in the aftermath and everyone pulling together to get through the disaster the best way they could.

Katrina was the biggest event to happen in my life and I pray it never happens again, but it was also the most rewarding event that created bonds to last a lifetime.

Rob Sigler is editor of The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at Rob.Sigler@VicksburgPost.com.