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Chapter 1 KATRINA, living in a nighmare

I feel in order to understand what I am going to tell you about in the following chapters, I must go back a few years prior to Katrina.

We moved to Hoxie Street back in nineteen seventy eight. I remember the day we signed the papers to buy the house. I laughed to myself as I noted the day the house would be paid for. I sat there reading the loan agreement thinking how long it would take to pay off the house, the age I would be by then. I thought, " Girl you will be really old, or dead by that ripe old age." I was in my early twenties, so was my husband. Our youngest was around three or four.

My daughter and son came to stay with us on a permanent basis a few years later. (They were from a previous marriage.) My husbands son visited on the week-ends.

The next thirty years seem to have flown by, as I look back. Isn't it odd at the time you are going through those years of raising your children the days seem to drag on and on? The days of breaking up fights between your children and the neighbors children. The days of walking out on your own porch to check your mail, to have a neighbor wave or just say hello.

Then comes the day when the mortgage is PAID IN FULL!! You are now a home owner. As you look back you can see that young woman all those years ago, sigh. You smile as you think back when you had thought how OLD you would be when the house was paid off. You now know how dumb you were to think the age you are now would be old. Heck!! you are still young and a child at heart.

It is up to you to take out insurance on the house you have struggled to pay for, sometimes having a struggle with all the children to take care of plus yourself and husband.

Your husband goes to take out the insurance, he is told by the agent " you don't need flood insurance. You are twelve feet above sea level."

Then along comes Hurricane Katrina. As you drive up after she has shown her ANGER to the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast, you know that he was wrong!!!! DEAD WRONG!!

Through tear filled eyes you see the total devastation of your neighborhood. The people you have grown so close to all those thirty years. You know nothing should be taken for granted.

The entire Mississippi Gulf Coast is destroyed. Everything you have known is gone or damaged. You feel your heart breaking. You know your world will never be the same again. You have not a clue that your pain and struggle has only began.

 In my book "Aware" I added a chapter called "The neighbor hood." I wrote about several of my neighbors.

As you look around you think of your friend Hazel, she passed away in February. You had made her a promise on her death bed that you would write her a poem. : Johnnie please don't forget me."

Tears fill your heart and soul as you think of the first line of Hazel's poem. " Don't look for me on Hoxie Street, I don't live there any more." Isn't that odd? Few will rebuild, most will not. They will not live on Hoxie Street any more. (Katrina had changed our lives forever.)

My family moved to Biloxi when I was in the first grade. My family had been told of past hurricanes. As I grew up in Biloxi, Ms. we evacuated from many hurricanes. I was not in the area when the famous " Hurricane Camile" hit the beautiful Ms. Gulf Coast.

I was fifteen, married and lived in Chicago at the time. We came back a few days after she had hit. Yes, it was bad, many homes destroyed and many died. She was the storm people talked about.

Many hurricanes and tropical storms hit the Ms. Gulf Coast over the years. We evaucated, thinking each time " this was the storm would cause horrible damage." Each time we returned there would be some damage.

Then came August of two thousand and five. I knew there was a storm brewing in the Ocean somewhere. I was not really worried at the time.I didn't notice the storm for several days.

On August the twenty seventh it became more of a threat to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I can't explain why I was not worried very much. I think it was the year before watching the other hurricanes make a turn just before they made land fall.

I left home on that same day not really worried. I remember passing a couple of homeless shelters. People gathered in line to get a hot meal. I think this was something I had grown use to seeing.

As I drove down the beach I will always wish I had noticed the beauty of my home town. The homes that had stood over looking the Mississippi Gulf Coast as far back as I could remember, restaurants of all kinds lined the beach front. Shrimp boats in the Gulf coming into shore laden with their catches of yummy Gulf Shrimp.

As I took the bridge from Biloxi to a town called Ocean Springs, it seemed so common place. Now it was gone, swept away like a childs building blocks,things you took for granted.

I did get a few hurricane supplies, thinking we would only be away from our home a few days at the most.

On the twenty eight we went to a hotel in Gulfport Mississippi we needed to get away from the beach. Our home had stood for over one hundred years, so no problem.

I took my pictures from the wall because my son nagged me until I did. I left behind treasures I can never replace. So all we had were a couple changes of clothes, pictures, and our music equipment.

Early that year I had bagged up a photo album when we had ran from another storm. I had put it under my bed, just in case we had to evacuate again. Later in the hotel room I remembered that I had forgotten to get it. I was not all that worried, it was in a plastic bag. Water would not get to it.

I can't tell you the dollar amount of dresses, shoes, purses, pant suits that I did not take.

We were staying on the back side of a hotel on highway forty nine well inland. Katrina roared ashore the next day. I think because of our location in the back of the hotel we did not know how horrible Katrina really was.

We had no power,telephones nor running water in the hotel. Still I did not know how bad it was.

Two days later we were allowed to return to our home. As we grew closer, I think in my heart I knew the damage was going to be bad. There is no way my mind could have imagined the horror of what I would see. Everything was gone or damage that we passed. For twelve miles from the hotel to my home almost nothing was standing. As we pulled onto Hoxie Street the tears filled my eyes, it was destroyed.

Yet I still thought I would go home clean up, maybe be with no power for a few weeks. I'd hang up my pictures as I had done so many times, life would go on.

There my home stood, the porch and roof torn off. You could not enter from the front.

Neighbors I had known for thirty years moaned in disbelief.

As I entered the back door everything was destroyed. Green slime covered all that was left of my home. It seemed that everything we had worked so hard to own for thirty years was gone.

I saved a few jeans, tops and trinkets but we were homeless. All we owned were the clothes and things we had carried with us. I cried for days, I even thought of taking my life. (Most of the Mississippi Gulf Coast was destroyed.)

We lived in that hotel room for thirty days with no lights, running water and very little food for the first five days. The Salvation Army was great they did feed us when they could get in.

Volunteers from everywhere you could think up showed up with things we needed. I will always be grateful for all these wonderful people.

Katrina tried to kill our beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast. She took dear ones lifes, homes, the entire Coast but for a few structures. BUT THE SHE COULD NOT TAKE OUR HOPE! OUR LOVE FOR EACH OTHER!! We will not let her take these things.

My family was among the lucky ones, we were living in a hotel room, we had a dry bed to sleep on. Many of my neighbors, loved ones are living in tents.

Never again will I go to a restruant to eat a $50.00 meal. Never again will I own a wardrobe that is the envy of most. I was changed forever that day.

I have not a clue where we go from here. Can we rebuild? With no flood insurance ( we were told we did not need) we were not given enough to even build a small cottage. We had hurricane insurance, but the insurance company said " flood was not covered".

I want to thank my friends and family for reaching out to us. They helped so much with their kindness and prayers. We would not have made it without them.That is why I am writing this book. I had to tell you how I came to understand how your life is up to you. ___________

This chapter is dedicated in the memory of Hazel and the people of Hoxie Street... Below I invite you to read Hazle's Poem.

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HAZEL

Don't look for me on Hoxie Street, I do not live there any more,

I am safe in the arms of Jesus, I have crossed the Golden Shore.

Sometimes my life was a struggle, I did my very best.

I saw joy pain and sorrow, though it all I stood the test.

My children meant the world to me they were my gifts from up above,

My friends were dear to my heart, I tried to show my love.

No matter what life tossed my way, I remained strong and stand tall,

Now I live in a land of wonder it was worth it all.

There are folks I saw today I have not seen in years,

The smile on their dear faces, the happiness very clear.

I took a walk with my mother, we talked most of the day,

We are so happy just being together again, we had a lot to say.

I saw my daddy sitting in a swing taking in the bright sunlight,

To see him sitting there was a wonderful sight.

I stopped and sat beside him, said there is so much to see,

He took my hand then said " My Dear Hazel you have eternity."

For my friend Hazel Fletcher

Johnnie Oakes

2-27-05

FOOT NOTE: I find it odd that I wrote this poem for Hazel, now only three or four homes are left on my dear Hoxie Street. Most of my neighbors will not rebuild. " Don't look for me on Hoxie Street I don't live there anymore."