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Life After Katrina(1)

2005-09-12 00:00

  In the first days after the storm we dug on our lots like archeologists, searching for scraps and pieces of our past. My most treasured possession dug from the bayou is a lamp I bought from a Biloxi estate five years ago. My youngest stepson found it in the marsh behind my house, completely intact. The next day, search and rescue crews found the body of another neighbor nearby.

  The first few days were a struggle for water, the next a struggle for ice. I stood in line with a woman who was on her way to Biloxi to identify her dead daughter, but she needed water first.

  There have been no funerals, and we are wondering why. My sister-in-law, who works at the hospital, says the morgue is full and they are using refrigerator trucks. But why are there no funerals? The newspaper does not have obits. Why? Are we denying that people died, or are we saving up all this grief to torment ourselves with after we begin to truly recover? Why would we not begin to bury the dead?

  But don't think for a second we don't know about New Orleans. We have all listened to WWL radio. We have a saying here: "We may be in Purgatory on the Gulf Coast, but those poor souls in New Orleans are in the inner ring of Hell." I can't fully convey how poorly the officials both here and there failed in getting the word out to people who did not know how to handle themselves in a Category 4/5. I've lived here long enough and interviewed enough Hurricane Camille victims that when I battened down the hatches I made sure I had axes, an extension ladder and boat flares, all in preparation for going into the attic if rising floodwaters made it necessary. As it turned out, my house was completely destroyed. Around the corner from there, an entire young family died. I watched them pull their bodies from the rubble last Saturday.

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