We had signs all over the interstates that said "Thanks y'all" about a year after Katrina hit. It was for all of the people headed north on the way home after helping with the clean-up and rebuilding. The signs have pretty much disappeared, but the people helping haven't. It's slowed a good bit, but it seems to be steady. This little blurb was in our paper yesterday:
HENNIKER, N.H. — Fifteen New Hampshire college students will spend their winter break in Mississippi helping renovate homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina.The group from New England College will work in teams in the Gulfport area. The effort was organized by Project Pericles, a nonprofit that encourages social activism among college students.The students will go to Mississippi on Jan. 4 and work for nine days, sleeping in permanent tents that were built to house hurricane survivors.
I think it's great that people in New Hampshire, especially young people, haven't forgotten us, and they seem to realize it's not all fixed by now. What does strike me as odd though, is the fact that they use a story from New Hampshire, instead of reporting on the kids and adults from here who are going in groups. My oldest is going twice in the next few months with organized groups. Once with her Church and once with a group from MS State. And there are many other groups doing the same. High schools, colleges, churches, businesses, and just groups of people who feel moved to do something.
One of the hardest things for me to accept is that my memories of the coast are already being altered, and in some cases lost altogether. We drove Beach Blvd the other day and found ourselves discussing what had been on that corner, or what this empty space used to be. Occasionally there were enough visual clues to narrow it down to an almost certainty (thank God for recognizable shapes of signs, and trademark color schemes) but just as often, we passed by without ever deciding for sure what it "used to be." I resisted taking pictures for over a year for the simple fact that I didn't want the permanency of the pictures to become my memories. That's happening anyway with each new trip to the coast. The pictures are all in my head now, and when I remember the drive through Long Beach, it's the miles of Hanes in the trees, not the beautiful homes that my mind conjures up first. The piles of debris and heaved up boardwalks, the prehistoric skeletons of Coke machines and retail shelving littering the beaches, instead of the miles of pristine white sand and sturdy fishing piers. Gone are the kites and jet ski rentals and brightly colored umbrellas and string bikini booths. No more lobster-red tourists from Michigan asleep on their towels, or children with boundless energy running in and out of the water, squealing with each new "treasure" discovered. Now there are front end loaders and cranes, great slabs of asphalt highway waiting to be hauled off for landfill under someone's new home. And the naked ribcages of the piers.
If you're interested in "doing something" to help, www.hands.ms has some opportunities. The into to the site is worth watching whether you help or not.