Thursday, March 7, 2013

Readings and Greetings: Rising from Katrina by Kathleen Koch

Broadwater Beach Hotel-Motel  a Camille survivor.
How can I describe my heartache when we first drove along Mississippi Hwy 90 from Biloxi to Gulfport, looking for my childhood landmarks.  Even the word "gone" doesn't describe the desolation that still remains along the beachfront property, more than seven years after Hurricane Katina.  It took me two days to finally find this location, and it was the slabs of concrete that I stood on looking out across the broken cement piers and piles of broken concrete and rubble that finally opened my eyes to where it all had been.  My family had visited the gulf coast at Christmas time throughout my childhood, so we could enjoy warm moist weather to play golf, romp on the beach, and pretend for awhile the real world was far away. Mother Nature has a way of humbling us and making us look inward for those memories.

This fall Kathleen Koch was a Dillon Lecture Series Guest Speaker sharing her experience at reporting for CNN on the pain and destruction of Hurricane Katrina, as it sat for hours on end over the Mississippi gulf coast swirling it's 200 mile an hour winds and pounding punishing walls of water over the homes and landscapes of the coastal highway.  Kathleen Koch's childhood home, Bay St. Louis, is just West of my landmarks, Gulfport to Biloxi, so I sat with great interest as she spoke of her experiences.  I bought her book, and we spoke briefly about our shared memories.

Her descriptions of the how the people were plunged into the hurricane gripped my soul to the bones.  (p.33)" A mile or so inland...the water had begun to rise around their clapboard house.  With each guest, the wind rocked the structure, every joint creaking and groaning as though it was about to go. As they huddled together on her bed, Shannon watched a crack start in the wall by the window.  It grew as the storm raged, snaking like a living thing across the room to the roof."

Kathleen and her CNN team waited out the winds in a hotel in Mobile, when at last the storm's destructive Northeast quadrant had passed they loaded their vehicle and headed west on I-10. (p.59) "Hoping to find a route west, we drove south to the beach road but got no farther.  An enormous wall of more than fifty crumpled truck trailers from the adjoining port blocked all four lanes of Highway 90, the road I used to drive to work every day."    Pictures before and after are sprinkled throughout her painful personal descriptions.  I felt the lose of each life, as if I'd known the people.  

What makes her book the BEST I've read on recovery and personal passion is simply the resolute stalwart caring people of Bay St. Louis.  They did not wait on the government to help; they did not stand in long lines signing up for government help; they did not complain; they went to work and helped themselves pick up the pieces.  


  1. your last paragraph on this book has peaked my interest in reading it. Helping themselves help themselves is a gift they gave to themselves and everyone around them. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. That was a terrible storm!!! We have evacuated three times since we lived here and each time I stood and looked everything over before I closed the door to leave, wondering if it would be here when we returned. I always said a prayer as I left. So far, we have been lucky and haven't lost our home.