I have resisted, to at least a couple of approximations, talking about Mississippi in the wake of Katrina. What my friend Steve has just sent me, though, has me weeping in a hotel room in Kentucky.
My home state’s coastal fringe is destroyed. It is a place I’ve been more times than I can count. I played my first putt-putt games with my long-dead father in the shadow of the Broadwater, with the sound of the waves in the background. That putt-putt is gone, and so is most of the Broadwater. But fuck the putt-putt; whole towns on the coast are gone. So is much of the work of Walter Anderson, and in all liklihood the homes of most of the people I knew who lived in that precarious wonderful place.
My brother’s best friend has hosted his in-laws for weeks, as they have no home anymore. This is not a rare story. Christ, it’s commonplace. This is good, but it’s terrible that it’s needed.
My own mother, nearly 90 miles inland, had trees aplenty fall on her home. She watched an aged pine — with a 15+ foot taproot — become uprooted in Katrina’s winds even that far north. She’s fine, and so is my stepdad, but he — at 70+ — spend days with his chainsaw clearing other peoples’ yards and driveways. These were days his own home had neither power nor water. John is like that.
I grew up in hurricane country. They’re a fact of life. A formative memory is dozing, fitfully, through Frederick in 1979. Ol’ Fred was a Cat 4, and was quite neutered by the time he hit Hattiesburg, but the damage was still astounding. The vast oak my mother watched sway during Camille in ’69 finaly fell during that storm, but somehow didn’t destroy the home it shadowed. Even so, the next day we all saw that tree as the fate we avoided.
Now, this past weekend, Erin and I spend a sleepless night watching a puny pecan swing over our own townhouse. We remembered our parents and our friends closer to the storm, and the stories they’d given us from before we were born — or from earlier that month — and we were far too cavalier.
Just now my friend Steve sent me this site. I think these photos say what I cannot.
So much will never be the same.