On a momentous August morning after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, my husband Steve made his way to the intersection of Highway 90 and Highway 49 in Gulfport, MS with a bunch of other stunned Mississippi Department of Transportation folks to survey damage caused by Hurricane Katrina. He called me on his cell phone and described what sounded like the aftermath of a nuclear bomb—total decimation.
He began with simple words, his civil engineer brain struggling to grapple with the task at hand, the unbelievable calamity that overwhelmed with its expanse and depth and mass. But then came the pause, the hard constriction of vocal cords and gritting teeth and a sob of incredulity. In the 26 years we have been married, I can count on one hand, maybe two, the times I have heard my husband cry. That day, his tears flowed, and I will never forget the utter disbelief and sorrow in his voice.
Pictures and video of that storm's aftermath do not do justice to the devastation. You have to see what our beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast looked like before that bitch of a storm hit. Footage and photographs of miles and miles of debris and wind torn trees and masses of rubble offer only a glimpse of what Katrina took in her wake.
Tonight I looked through some of the digital photos Steven took along Highway 90 that day because my son, Sam, asked if I had any photos of Long Beach. All the photos are labeled “Highway 90 West.” The sad part is, the destruction was so complete, it took a lot of looking to figure out which shots were those of my childhood home, a place I knew like my own heart. Pretty much any photograph could be any spot along the 26 mile stretch bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Landmarks had disappeared.
After looking at scores of images and pinpointing a few for Sam, one photo stood out from the others. In the midst of that horrific mess leaned a tattered sign against a pile of debris along what I believe is 2nd Avenue in Pass Christian. Those big white words on a green board exemplify the spirit of this Mississippi Gulf Coast. It is the image I choose to remember on this 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall.
Thank you, Sam, for asking about the Katrina photos. It is important to remember the lives lost, the selfless efforts given and the recovery that continues. God is good, all the time. It’s Mother Nature who can be a real bad ass.