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Salvage Me

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I live in Jackson, Mississippi about 300 miles north of Gulfport and New Orleans. Whenever storms hit the coast, the effects we feel here in Jackson are minimal. This is no longer true.

Monday morning we reported to work as usual; an hour later we were all dismissed. There have been so many times we have been told to take precautions and be careful because the ‘storm could reach inland as far as Jackson’. Yea right! I watched the wind torment trees outside my third floor apartment for an hour. I sat at my computer playing dominoes and listening to music. It was rainy and windy and they let me off work for this, cool.

At 12:03PM my cable and roadrunner went out. No big deal, I have DSL and plenty of DVDs.

At 12.05PM my lights went out.

Still it was nothing major, I’m sure the lights will come back on shortly, I guess I’ll take a nap. Two hours turned into twelve as the lights stayed off and boredom set in. Thank God the phones still work. In the midst of disaster people find the oddest things to discuss. It helps to distract from the impending doom that’s about to overtake them.

Trees start blowing a little harder, unexpected but still ntohing big.

Tuesday morning, as the cool air left over from continuous running of the AC seeped out and the sun came up, we ventured outside. I expected to see water and a few broken limbs because this was Jackson and we never got weather that bad here.

What I saw were trees twelve feet high and three feet wide toppled over in the middle of major roads. Metal street signs bent completely back or broken from their posts completely. The only thing that broke my shock was the ding of low fuel in my car. It never dawned on the genuis I pretend to be that without power you can not run gas pumps. As many people search for water, ice, milk and bread, I search for gas. As we come to an area of town that has power and gas stations (simultaneously), we head to Pilot, the truck stop that has twelve tanks of fuel and over 200 cars waiting. We sat in line over three hours waiting for gas. Where we would have paid $2.45 before, gas was now $2.75 and this was for regular. We watch as people march back and forth wit fuel tanks, some taking advantage of those who have limited options selling 5 gallon jugs of gas for twenty dollars.

A curfew is imposed for citizens to stay off the streets between midnight and 6AM. I must report to work Wednesday at 9AM so it doesn’t really affect me. What does affect me is the mandate to shut off the city’s water because it has been contaminated. So people with power now have no water and those with water have no power. Conditions continue to worsen and the storm is long gone.

I did not get power back until late Thursday evening. The only reason I am not at work is because I had vacation time 9/01 and 9/02 ironically to go to New Orleans or the coast. There is no such thing as normal here. Where I am used to pulling up to a pump getting gas and heading home, pumps are scarce and gas is rare. Normal has become a two-hour wait to get gas or food. There are still people without lights or ice. There are strangers walking the streets because they literally have no where to go. We have shelters to meet every kind of need there is but they are full. The population has doubled in 48 hours. My little sister’s boyfriend, a native of New Orleans here for school, has not talked to his mother or siblings since Sunday night when they told him they were going to the Superdome; today is Friday.

There is no more Mississippi Coast, it has been obliterated. Entire buildings were picked up and moved like Legos. I spent just over three days miserable because I had to stay with my mom until my lights came back on. I understand how foolish and selfish that is now. But, the sentiment still applies. As much help as there is available for the wanderers created by Hurricane Katrina, it can not replace the fact that people have suffered a loss. Books can be replaced, televisions, camcorders and cars can be replaced, but homes are made. There is nothing quite liked feeling displaced, and I can only relate on a small scale having experienced only a modicum of the separation ‘the wanderers’ are feeling.

There is a general discord here in Mississippi about the help we will actually receive. The rest of the country looks down on us. We are the uncle in the back who you keep the door closed to. There is no doubt in my mind had it been New York or Cali we would not have waited this long for the President of the UNITED States of America to survey the disaster sites. Why?

There are all races displaced in the Superdome but there is no doubt the majority is black, and again I must ask why the delay? No, everything isn’t about race. The old-heads know Dew is the last one to pull the race card, but when Bill O’Reilly makes the statement that ‘we know why they are there, these people live hour by hour’, I have to wonder exactly who ‘these people’ are. After 9/11 I did not think I would see something so devastating occur and so close to home. Times are changing, signs are showing themselves as the domino effect begins. All it took for me to get back to ‘normal’ was having my power back. Having to wait for gas is annoying but nothing I can’t deal with. I am one of the lucky few. I have a home and a full tank of gas. Soon, though, gas will not be available for regular citizens but only emergency vehicles and utility trucks. I still have a job to go to and bills to pay. I do not live in the city limits therefore I use quite a bit of gas in my daily commute. Its easy to say don’t go anywhere unnecessary but I was already doing that. Today gas is at $3.29/gallon, for us that is beyond exorbitant.

Hurricane Katrina created more than wreckage, she created lost souls. People who only had a little now have even less. Families have been literally ripped apart. People were forced to decide between their spouses or their children. Throughout the state, people are rationing everyday items we take for granted. Where gleaming casino lights once draped Biloxi’s ports there remains only despair. No, Jackson never gets weather as bad as they say, but we still share the aftermath.

My testimony is a soft one. Although affected, I am not the one who needs relief or telethons but I am close enough to the problem to see how bleak the solution really is. Casinos can be rebuilt and water can be drained, but what donation or celebrity outcry can salvage lost souls?


About Dew

  • Al Barger

    Miss Dew! Glad to see you back in print, and especially with a strong and timely report from the affected area. Obviously New Orleans has gotten the worst of this, but this goes out a long ways. How far is Jackson from New Orleans, anyway?

  • Al Barger

    I can also understand a bit of sensitivity here on some of the racial issues. There’s been quite a bit of varied political and social foolishness from various sides shoehorned into this terrible situation. I will note, however, that such foolishness comes not just from one side of the political aisle, as per this Blogcritics post.

    Also, please do not hold Bill O’Reilly’s nonsense against President Bush. He’s certainly no spokesman for the administration.

    I note that you answered my previous question about distance in the first sentence of your column. My only defense is that I was so excited to see you back that I read too quickly.

  • Joanie

    I’m glad you’re safe and wish you continued safety.

    Thank you for providing us a look into your experiences.

  • Natalie Davis

    Dew! So glad to see your prose again, though sad to hear of your trials. Please stay safe and stay in touch. BC is a sadder, colder, lonelier place without your presence.

  • Cerulean

    Very well-written. It could be professional. You should publish that in a newpaper or magazine.

  • D L Ennis

    Happy that you are well!

    D L

  • Dew

    Thank you all for the well wishes. Things here are improving. Power is being restored faster and further south working its way to the coast. I have no idea how they will begin to tackle the problem there or in New Orleans. News of Mobile, Alabama has been scarce but they were just as devastated. The mayor of Jackson is working with the city council to get evacuees enrolled in area schools hopefully there are efforts such as these going on in all relief areas.

  • Lynn Hoover

    Shame on Carnival Cruise. What a bunch of hipocrates. I just heard they were going to offer the HOLIDAY ship to shelter the homeless- meanwhile they just marooned me and my wife and all the other HOLIDAY passengers in Tampa refusing to return us to mobile where we shipped out from on thier cruise and now they are offering to “shelter” the homeless? They didn’t even shelter thier own cruise clients and FORCED everyone off of thir ship in Tampa instead of Mobile where we shipped out from! I am so mad at this hipocrisy! They boarded up all the windows on the cruise during the hurricane. They were too cheap to stay in port in cozemel so forced all of us to float around in the gulf instead of staying ported in cozemel. Then, instead of returning us to Mobile where we shipped out of they forced us all out of the boat in Tampa NO REFUND! And many of us are still trying to get our cars which are still in mobile! What a joke. SHAME ON CARNIVAL.

  • DrPat

    Thanks for also raising the point that it is not only New Orleans that is devastated. This disaster hit three states, not just the Big Easy…

  • Natalie Davis

    Five, actually: Georgia and Kentucky saw damage too, though not on the same scale as the others.

  • Phillip Winn

    Wow, great story, Dew!