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Mississippi: The Invisible Coast

Thank you Matt for giving me the opportunity to post about my state.

My name is Karen and I live in Gulfport Mississippi. On August 29, Hurricane Katrina slammed into my city as well as Biloxi, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Bay St Louis, Waveland, and other coastal cities. The destruction is indescribable and brutal. Preliminary estimates show that over 65,000 homes in Mississippi were destroyed and a further 38,000 will more than likely need to be demolished. From my circle of friends and acquaintances, 30 have had their homes destroyed outright . A further 10 had so much water damage their homes are unlivable.   

There are Mississippians in Gulfport, D'Iberville, St Martin, Biloxi, Pass Christian, Bay St. Louis, and Waveland that are sleeping in tents while waiting on a FEMA trailer.  Small communities in Mississippi such as Waveland, Lakeshore, and St Martin no longer exist. 

The national news media has relegated my state to a footnote when Hurricane Katrina is discussed.  Even The Weather Channel now fails to mention Mississippi when discussing Hurricane Katrina.  The American people have not forgotten us and for that I am grateful.  There are so many volunteers that are helping us rebuild our lives. 

Over 300,000 Mississippi lives were affected one way or another.  Many lost their homes and their jobs.  Both Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi and the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport suffered over 30% damage.  Keesler Medical Center was damaged to the extent that it's going to take until around July 2007 before it can resume training nurses and doctors.  It is currently setup on an outpatient basis.  That affects the large number of retirees in the Mississippi Gulf Coast area.  The Northrop-Grumman shipbuilding facilities in Pascagoula suffered major damage.  The Port of Gulfport has lost it's warehouses and cannot handle the shipments of clothing and food it once did.  The seafood industry is in shambles.

A couple of weeks ago my local newspaper published an editorial and urged it to be passed along.  It's a plea to the news media not to make our plight a footnote. Below is an excerpt of Mississippi's Invisible Coast.

As Aug. 29 recedes into the conscious time of many Americans, the great storm that devastated 70 miles of Mississippi's Coast, destroying the homes and lives of hundreds of thousands, fades into a black hole of media obscurity.

Never mind that, if taken alone, the destruction in Mississippi would represent the single greatest natural disaster in 229 years of American history. The telling of Katrina by national media has created the illusion of the hurricane's impact on our Coast as something of a footnote.

The awful tragedy that befell New Orleans as a consequence of levee failures at the time of Katrina, likewise, taken by itself, also represents a monumental natural disaster. But, of course, the devastation there, and here, were not separate events, but one, wrought by the Aug. 29 storm.

There is no question that the New Orleans story, like ours, is a compelling, ongoing saga as its brave people seek to reclaim those parts of the city lost to the floods.

But it becomes more and more obvious that to national media, New Orleans is THE story - to the extent that if the Mississippi Coast is mentioned at all it is often in an add-on paragraph that mentions "and the Gulf Coast" or "and Mississippi and Alabama."

Please read the whole editorial.  We in Mississippi are not a footnote.