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KATRINA Living in a nightmare

One of the things the people at WLOX TV had worried about for years was that the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast would grow tired of running from hurricanes. WLOX TV took Katrina very serious, and I really think with the warnings they saved many people from dying. Still many people did die, it is heart breaking. You know one is one too many to die, it is so very sad.

I think some people knew Katrina should not be taken lightly. Because of the advanced warnings they had moved to higger ground.They didn't think she would bring in water the way she did.

Still so many died it breaks my heart just to think of those poor souls swimming trying to live, yet they perished in the wrath of Katrina. I'm not sure if anyone knew the utter destruction Katrina would cause. Let me just say this "the crew of WLOX TV cares about the people of the Coast. I want to thank these people I would like to list each personally, but that list would fill this chapter.

Anyway, we had made reservations at a motel in GulfPort Mississippi. We were getting ready to evacuate. I didn't take even one third of the things I had taken in the past hurricanes. Only two changes of clothes some of my pictures, books, medicine and of course my make up.

As we were loading the final things into the car and van the telephone rang. It was the motel saying all reservations were cancelled by order of the Civil Defence. I panicked, almost fell apart. Then the lady said " the hotel next door has two rooms, if you call now you can get them." I called we got the two rooms.

In the confusion I forgot my photo album with pictures of our son from birth to a few weeks before hurricane Katrina.

As we pulled out that day I didn't have any odd feelings of foreboding. It is so odd to me with all the times we had to leave prior to this one I cried each time. I didn't even look back at that sweet comfort zone that Buster and I called home. It never once occurred to me that the other motel had closed for a VERY good reason.

We got to our new rooms, checked in went down to dinner at the cafe. We talked about how lucky we were to have a cafe to eat at " just in case we had to stay a few days." How could we know this would be the last hot food we would have for five or six days?

As we walked outside the weather was purfect. I remember thinking " Oh well, we can eat breakfast in the morning, then I will once again go home and hang up my pictures." I now understand the phrase " The Calm before the Storm"

We woke up around eight the next morning. Our rooms were on the back side of the hotel. My daughter-in-law Jackie her daughter Jacee and I sat on the balcony watching huge trees snap in the strong wind. There were times we had to go into our rooms so we would not be blown off the balcony. Yet, still I didnot think it would be bad at all on Hoxie Street.

As I look back today I don't think I was in denial, I think the size of the place we were staying blocked the wind from where our rooms were. I knew we had no power nor running water but I was not worried. When we got home, everything would be just fine! Once again I was wrong, very wrong.

It took us hours to get back to Hoxie, to check on the house. That day is forever burned into my mind. I don't think we stayed long that first day. I can't remember for sure how long we were there.

As we pulled away from what was once was our beloved home I was crying. I'm not sure I knew how badly the house was damaged. I was very upset that our daughter had stayed in Ocean Springs in her house.

The bridge that connected Biloxi and Ocean Springs had been destroyed. I had called Lauria for two days, no land lines were working. The cell phones were almost impossible to get through to anyone on.

Then I saw her coming down the road til' then neither of us knew if the other had lived through Katrina. All I could get out was " LET ME TOUCH HER!! LET ME TOUCH HER!!

I was not even aware of the drastic changes around me. As I look back I think I was in a deep state of shock. I stared out my window and watched as many people were walking their dogs among what was left of homes. I did see huge white trucks with the back door open on them. I saw large black and orange bags. I feel so dumb as I write this today. I had saw movies and the unforgettable 9-11 when the same thing was going on. Yet it never occurred to me that the dogs were searching for bodies.

We returned to the hotel that would become our home for a month. We had no food, it would be several day until the Salvation Army & Red Cross got to us with drinking water and hot food.

When the water came back on we were told not to bath in it unless we rubbed this thing called 99% germ free after we got out of the smelly water. We only had slight water pressure. The toilets would not flush. We had to go down fifteen steps and walk about 2 blocks in order to flush the toilets.

We had one small radio that picked up one or two static filled stations. We still did not have a clue that the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast was almost wiped out.

I had gotten a few blouses out of the house, they were filled with green slime and mud. At this point we had no choice but to wash them in the contaminated Katrina water. I cried my self to sleep every night.... I prayed people knew we were alive. I tried in vain to contact my dear family and friends. This would take several days.

I remember Jackie and I sitting outside trying to call people. We would meet on the balcony, finally after hours of trying get the phone to ring. Only to get the recording that brought tears to our eyes, " all circuits are busy, try again later." Then when we got through after hours of trying we were lucky to talk two or three minutes.

My worst fear was people didn't know what happened to us, they would forget us. I was humbled when someone gave me a bottled of water. I cried because it was so tasty and clean and safe to drink.

Life was very difficult with each passing day the impact of Katrina seemed more clear. One night my daughter-in-law open seven cans of corn she had packed in the trunk of her car when we evacuated. She warmed it on a caned heat burner. We watched as more than twenty five people that were hungry lined up to get a bowl. Even after they all had eaten there was corn left.

A friend of my sons watched this all unfold. He had believed in God before this, as he watched he had tears in his eyes as he said " it is like in the Bible when God fed all those people with just a few fish and bread."

Another time that brings tears to my eyes was when people staying at the hotel found out we had lost everything and brought a big bag of clothes for us. As I was looking through the bag I found an orange blouse with tags still on it in my size. I clutched it close to me and told my daughter-in-law " it's my size, look Jackie a new blouse in my size!" I was so grateful I broke down and cried.

My sons friend stood on the darken balcony and cried. He was in the service, he was on duty at the base during the day but stayed with us at night. Now that I think about it he seldom stayed in the room with Jackie, John and Jacee. He stayed in his truck. I think maybe he was watching over us.

One night a guy staying at the hotel cooked beans for everyone staying at the hotel. They were so good, I can still taste them. He left the next day, it would be a few more day til' the Salvation Army and Red Cross could get in. Thank God we had a credit card we would have been like other people living in tents.

We sat in line for up to three hours just to buy gas. Then came the day we went to a Chevron to get gas for my son's car and ours. We went inside to try and get something cold to drink. THEY HAD HOT FOOD!! Chicken on a stick, kinda like a corn dog. My son came up, we stood and looked at this wonderful hot food!! I sobbed as I handed him my Chevron credit card and said " get anything you want, anything! And get Jackie and Jacee something too.

Later he said the baby and Jackie were so happy to see the simple food it was all he could do not to break down. Food that only a few short days before would have gone unnoticed.

Silent Scream (Katrina)

Katrina, roared into the Gulf Coast in August two thousand and five,

Hardly a structure was left standing, many lost their lives.

She took away the things people had worked for so many years,

She left heartache and sadness, a valley of tears.

As you take a look around you, wondering how can this be?

The worst disaster has hit your area in all history.

You cry as you hear of your friends that did not live through Katrina's rage,

At this moment, you feel like a trapped animal in a cage.

Silent Scream tearing at your broken heart,

Knowing that Katrina had torn your world apart.

You had lived in your home for over thirty years,

As you look at what once was your home, you break down in tears.

You see friends and neighbors with haunted eyes of disbelief,

It is like the death of a dear loved one, so much heartache and grief.

As you dig through the rubble of what once was your home,

The pain is so great you feel you cannot carry on.

Bent but not broken you know you must not give in,

Knowing in your heart that you will be whole again.

You know katrina wrath has destroyed the Mississippi Gulf Coast, it will never be the same,

She could not take your faith, your soul nor memories with you they remain.

The people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast will stand together as one,

We will remain tall and sturdy like the mighty Oak in the Sun.

Your friends and dear loved ones reach out to you,

You can feel hope returning, a way of life that is new.

ęcopyright Johnnie Oakes

11/23/2005

To the people of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

God Bless You All!

A very special Thank You to the staff of WLOX TV. You set aside your own problems to keep the Coast informed.

A very special Thank's to Mr. David Elliot.

You were very kind when you talked me through my interviews.