Rebuilding of Gulf Coast is just the beginning

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 22, 2005

The evidence emerged somewhere around Meridian, Miss., more than a three hours' drive from where Hurricane Katrina plowed ashore nearly two months ago.

Driving south toward my parents' house the headlights caught small glimpses of trees hastily sawed to clear them from the roadway emerged.

Even at night, the evidence was clear; the landscape had changed. Stars shined through places along the highway, areas once shaded by trees.

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By the light of day the devastation was more staggering - trees and piles of debris in almost every yard and along almost every roadway.

&#8220It's blue roof city here,” my mom said referring to the countless number of blue tarps fastened to damaged rooftops until more permanent repairs can be made. &#8220This looks good compared to what it did look like.”

And remember, my parents live more than 70 miles inland.

Traffic is flowing again on the roadways of Mississippi and in some parts flowing at incredibly high volumes. Displaced coast residents have fled inland for more permanent shelter or just a place to shop.

Further south along the coast, the scene - even after nearly two months of cleanup - is difficult to fathom. Nearly every block remains scarred by the storm's wrath.

Our family's former home is out of the area that is publicly accessible. Concertina wire - the kind of razor wire that surrounds prisons - runs for miles along the Mississippi Gulf Coast keeping the public away from the most damaged areas.

The newspaper and TV images cannot begin to fully show the breadth of the damage - miles and miles of debris and damaged property. Each pile a small reminder of the lives affected by the storm.

In Pass Christian, homes constructed more than a century ago are obliterated. The piles of rubble resemble something you might expect to see in Baghdad or Kabul.

Back in Lawrence County, thousands of people have giving - are giving - to help in the relief. Ironton Rotary Club members donated more than $1,000 to Katrina relief. The group was one of dozens of civic clubs and organizations that have done the same. From church groups to schoolchildren, Lawrence County residents have donated time and money to help.

The big need, however, is to keep that giving spirit alive. Residents in the hurricane-damaged areas have mostly dug out the roadways and most of the bodies have been located - at least the ones that can be located, some are feared to have been washed into the Gulf of Mexico as the storm surge subsided.

But the rebuilding process is just beginning. Getting back to normal will take years and lots of money.

One thing is certain. The coast is rebuilding and in the end it will be a stronger place when it does. You can help that rebuilding by donating to one of the local relief efforts.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1441, ext. 12 or by e-mail to