GCN Exclusive Report
Waveland - Reaching Out From Ground Zero – Part 2
Overwhelmed by the destruction of Hurricane Katrina 11 months ago, Waveland city employees are now nearly as overwhelmed by what needs to be done to save the city from dissolving away into nothing. In this second report on Waveland, we again hear from Kathy Pinn, who is Waveland's public information officer and who is handling donations to the city. What you learn is that Hurricane Katrina "recovery" is not so much a recovery, but a day-to-say struggle to make some progress in truly difficult times. (click here for Part 1)
By Mark Proulx - Special to GCN Filed 7/19/06 GCN
Submitted by: Kathy Pinn, Donations Coordinator
“Dr. Kevin Becker, psychologist and director of the Institute for Trauma and Crisis at Harvard Medical School held a workshop here last week and said that after a disaster people recover in stages. First, there is the survival mode and then the hero mode, where people are so busy helping others that they put aside their own needs and then there is the disillusionment stage. And that’s where he thinks most of the people affected by Katrina are right now.
I couldn’t agree more. It is now 10½ months after the storm. Still some are without homes; many are living in FEMA trailers outside their gutted houses with no means of repairing their mortgaged living space. Either they don’t have the expertise or the money or both.
I’m not talking about people who were on welfare or people without jobs before the storm. Although we do have people like that in our community who have to be taken care of, too. We have elderly people who lived in modest homes that they owned on a limited income. We have young families with children, some where both parents had to work, with a mortgaged home, maybe one or both parents have lost their job and now they are living in a cramped trailer on their home site everyday seeing the destruction around them. We have single moms trying to make ends meet.
Life in general has always been a challenge. Just imagine throwing Katrina into the mix of your everyday life. Everything gone. Starting over.
The debris removers have cleaned up whatever could be brought to the road. Huge trees and stumps that could not be removed are still the responsibility of the homeowner. And then the big holes left by removed stumps have to be filled with dirt. Then there’s the dirt where grass once stood and kids having to play outside because inside is too crowded.
And then the frustration when accidents occur---water pipes being broken by debris removers, ditches flooding with water that becomes stagnant because city workers have so much of this to repair they can’t get to it right away.
Now not everyone is laden with this scenario, there are the people around who have an entrepreneurial spirit and find this challenging and some have some resources to begin building, but for most of the people here, the challenge is daunting. Thank God, so many volunteers have come to help us. Each day homes are being gutted, cleaned-up, and restored. There is still so much to do.
And then there are the glimmers of hope that are now turning into small tragedies. The promise of funds for families who owned their homes and did not live in a flood zone and were not required to have flood insurance. Newspapers announced that these monies were appropriated and were to be distributed quickly to help people get back on their feet. This money brought hope to many. They planned their reconstruction. Some even got loans or paid for supplies on credit cards. The money has not arrived and now some are faced with debtors calling for their money. They did what they had to attain some sense of normalcy for themselves and their children. Also, the SBA process is very slow for most people. These monies are not given to people, they are loaned to people. It has to be paid back. The benefit is the low interest rate.
And there are the people who lived in zones which have changed and require new methods of construction. Most people want to build back, but the infrastructure is still too compromised in some areas to allow building to begin.
Nearly everyone currently working for the City has been here since days after the storm. Most experienced firsthand the wrath of Hurricane Katrina. A lot of our employees were here when the hurricane blasted our town. What makes everything so difficult as emotions wear thin is that everyone who works for the City also lost their homes. The jobs that they once mastered with ease now have become more difficult. Some city employees have found the stress along with meeting their family’s needs too overwhelming and have had to leave.
Can you imagine working in the Public Works department where everyday pumps go down, waterlines all over the city are broken, new potholes are formed in streets caused by construction trucks and the massive trucks used to carry out debris, and downed trees in everyone’s yards? Many people have not begun the task of rebuilding and there are still some houses that are condemned, but haven’t been removed yet.
Or how about being in the building department where everyday people come in who are frustrated because they can’t build yet, they are confused about what they can build and many have no funds to begin to rebuild. Where zoning officials are burdened with the task of saying no to people who want permanent trailers where their homes once stood. Imagine the enormous task of trying to preserve our identity and dealing with the needs of our residents?
Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t say to me, “I don’t know how the Mayor can cope with all this! It’s not exactly the job he signed up for.” A small town usually has small town problems. We are now faced with “world class problems.” We are faced with the tremendous task of rebuilding an entire city from the ground up!
Here We Are
When you grow up in America, you are taught to be independent, to be strong, to carry your own weight, etc., etc. And being optimistic, you also can never imagine yourself being in the midst of the nation’s worst disaster. You never imagine yourself being in the position of needing help, much less having to ask for it. As Americans, even Southern Americans, we just are not brought up that way.
Some say ‘why do you choose to live in a place that puts you at such a risk?’ If we had ever imagined something like this, we certainly would have chosen a different place to live. However, every area has its own environmental disasters---floods, droughts, snowstorms, tornadoes, fires, whiteouts, blackouts, overpopulation, traffic, etc., etc.
When we first thought of moving here, we drove up and down the coastline and marveled at all the beautiful homes that have been here for over a hundred years. We heard about hurricanes. In fact, we knew about Camille-1969, and Betsy-1965, and some of the others, but here were homes, families and a lifestyle that has existed since the coastline was discovered and developed. We even bought a building that had survived Hurricane Camille, the worst disaster to hit this area.
So we felt relatively safe. We took hurricane precautions and began our lives. We loved our life! Days were usually sunny and, except for the gnats, life was marvelous. Anyone who has visited Mississippi at certain times of the year knows about the gnats. They are those tiny bugs that you can’t see, but you feel their body-chilling sting. They have a very distinctive, “drive-you-crazy” kind of sting…and there are so many of them. (By the way, if it weren’t for the gnats, I’m convinced the coast of Mississippi would be very overcrowded. They tend to thin out the population because only the stout-hearted and strong can persevere the dreaded gnat!)
Another great leveler of the population is our sweltering summer heat. It’s a hot, humid, right in your face kind of heat. It makes for great excuses to do nothing! It’s a great excuse to pack up and spend the day at the beach. It’s a great excuse for no meaningful work to be done. For a day spent lollygagging on the porch, sipping lemonade or something a little more spirited, or having an outdoor shrimp boil, and just talking or visiting with family and friends. What northerners may consider “unproductive time” is actually something we must do to endure our environment. Something every Southerner knows is a survival skill. So see, we aren’t being lazy or nice on purpose, we are ‘just survivin’, honey!’
What Do We Do?
The First Goal – People Back
Because so many wonderful people all over the world have seen our plight and understand who we are and where we are in our fight against what Mother Nature has delivered us, we are optimistic. Many have already come to our aid. Many have been here since the very beginning, at first, with food, supplies and survival needs. Then workers and volunteers came who have been going into people’s homes gutting, cleaning and rebuilding. We have dedicated people who look at our dilemma and understand our need. There are people here since days after the storm who have given up their personal lives to help.
The first goal is, and has to be helping people get back into their homes. Through faith-based organizations and other volunteer organizations, “people-power” has been a driving force in this effort. Support to these organizations is critical. They supply housing, food, and supplies to workers for families in need.
We need our citizens to come back, if we are going to retain our community with any resemblance of what it was before.
What Do We Do?
City Needs: Help in Rebuilding
Everyday I hear about grants, FEMA funding, state funds, CDBG monies, MDA funding, donations, the list goes on. What we need now is to see some of these monies reaching the City.
We know what has to be rebuilt:
Infrastructure – water, sewer and gas lines
Roads – even roads that were not slated for improvement now need it because of debris removal and construction activities
City Hall and the Annex Building
Police Station and Court House
Fire Station (Main and Auxiliary)
Civic Center (the old school – only remaining historic building in Waveland)
Beachfront - The City Pier and Monument Area
All of these projects have PW’s – project worksheets developed with estimated costs.
The City has held meetings with federal, state and local authorities. The Governor’s Commission planning process for recovery, rebuilding and renewal has gone almost full circle with design charrettes and planning meetings.
I know that planning is critical to the process and it has been almost a year. It is now time to start funneling some of the funds to us so that the process of rebuilding can happen. The City is charged with coming up with matching funds.
One of the dilemmas is that we need to know what governmental agencies are going to give us. Are we going to have to rebuild some of the buildings that were already outdated and small, or can we have additional funds to rebuild structures to service our current needs?
I believe the City is very close to having these questions answered. I believe we are inline to start the process. It becomes frustrating, but when you think about taking a year to plan the rebuilding of a City, it’s not really a very long time.
City of Waveland Needs List
Paper Products (Towels-Toilet-Plates-Cups)
Laminating Sheets (8.5x11 and 8.5x14)
Vacuum Cleaners (4)
Ink Cartridges (Brother PC 301 & 2040, HP Laser 12A, 96 & 97, Cannon E40)
Paper Shredders (4)
Color Printers (2)
Clear index tabs Pop-up post-its (6)
Ribbon for Casio 420A
Copy Paper (White & Colors)
Green Bar Paper 14-7/8” x 11”
Small Office Trash Cans (6)
Trash can liners (kitchen, & large)
Lamps New or Used
Toilet Bowl brush
Mops & buckets (4)
Small Window Air Conditioner
For Citizens, Employees and to help Volunteers help families:
Lawn Care Equipment
Lawn Mowers Gas Cans
Rakes WalMart gift cards for gas and supplies
Trash Bags Building Materials
Wheel Barrels Lumber, Sheet Rock, Plywood or Home Depot
or Lowe’s cards
Weed eaters (gas) Roofing material
Monetary Donations: For the City of Waveland:
City of Waveland, 335 Coleman Avenue, Waveland, MS 39576
Designated use: Matching funds to begin rebuilding.
(For example: To Rebuild City Hall)
For the library or schools, please make donations to:
Hancock County Public Library, 312 Hwy. 90, Bay St. Louis, MS 39520
Bay-Waveland School District, 201 Carroll Avenue, Bay St. Louis, MS 39520