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The Foundations Remain

Posted By Christie M., Mar 28, 2008

On our first day in Mississippi, we drove along Highway 90, which follows the coast, from Gulfport to Biloxi. I looked out the window to my left. Beautiful white sand beaches stretched for miles, peppered with palm trees and adorned with a boardwalk and beach umbrellas. I sat mesmerised at the beauty. I never thought that such a place existed in Mississippi which could so closely resemble some of the best beaches in the world. Then I looked out the window to my right.

The land along the coast looks as though Katrina tore through it a week ago. Some houses were rebuilt, but as I later learned, most of those were just shells, with no one living inside. Pieces of people's lives were still strewn about the properties. Pieces of the place many were at one time lucky to call home in such a gorgeous place. On many lots, all the remained was the foundation of the house, and the occasional staircase. Homes that were badly damaged but not knocked down still teetered precariously, some still full of possessions that no one could possibly salvage.

This all seems very depressing. However, my experience in Mississippi has been nothing but positive his week. I have seen the seeds of change in some for the most wonderful people I have met. My group worked on a project with the Community Land Trust in North Gulfport, a low income community that suffered terribly from Katrina and in its aftermath. The MS state government took $600 Million (that is NOT a typographical error) from funding allocated to rebuild low income communities, and are planning to build an inland port terminal for cargo in the middle of the North Gulfport community. Our task was to survey the community to see what they thought about this port terminal, and organize a community meeting about it. While hitting the pavement and surveying, I found in what looked like a run down, unsafe neighborhood a vibrant community with outstanding young men and women.

Mr. Cordero is a young man that I met that restored my hope and faith in the rebuilding of the entire Gulf Coast. He grew up in North Gulfport, and knows everybody. Mr. Cordero is active in his church and community, working for Americorps in his hometown in order to increase the community's confidence in itself and bring them together to fight the port project. He truly impressed and inspired me. I now have a new faith in the power of small numbers, even in the power of one.

Ms. Angie blew me away with her finesse for public speaking, and the heart and soul that I saw her put into this project. I walked every block of North Gulfport, and Ms. Angie was right beside me every step of the way. Angie ended up running the community meeting last night. Her passion and ability to relate the problems that the port will bring to the rest of the community got everyone at the meeting fired up and ready to respond. I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to meet her. She was like my mom this week!

It is important to realize, though, that these great voices can shout as loud as they can, but they wont be heard far and wide without a little help. Everyone, everywhere, should do what they can to educate themselves about the problems of the region, and come down as see for themselves what an amazing place it truly is. We as a community and a nation need to stand behind these voices, to spread the word, and to become vessels for the change we need to see.

Even though Katrina tore apart people's lives and homes, it couldn't destroy their foundations. And that's half the battle.