Thursday, September 8, 2005

Fielder’s Choice
By Barry Burleson

Tears, prayers

The bad news keeps coming in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but these disasters bring out the good, too.

Sunday afternoon I was at the office working on the sports section. I stopped to check my e-mail.

There was one from The Sun Herald in Bioxi forwarded by the Mississippi Press Association to newspaper offices across the state.

It was headlined “shaken up” and read:

Sun Herald marketing consultant Jimmie Brewer has just gotten back from Hancock County. He’s pretty shaken up by the devastation. We’re letting him collect himself and then we’re going to debrief him and get the information posted as soon as we can.

“I’ve hugged more people who have lost everything,” Brewer said.

The Sea Coast Echo, a Bay St. Louis paper, is gone, as are its archives. We’ll be working with them and hope to put a Sea Coast Echo page in our paper daily.”

One newspaper office was wiped out; but another was reaching out to help.

The e-mail forced tears, some of sadness and some of joy.

Sea Coast Echo publisher Randy Ponder is a good friend. He is a fellow MPA board member.

I got word last week, via e-mail, that he was OK, along with a portion of his staff. The status of several of his employees remained unknown.

We see a lot of pictures from New Orleans, some from Biloxi, but only a few from places like Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Picayune, Hattiesburg, Columbia and Laurel.

On Friday, Pam finally talked to our best friends from Laurel. They had fled to Arkansas.

But they said one in every five houses in Laurel received damage. There were a few deaths in Jones County.

A house in our former neighborhood there was basically sliced down the middle by a fallen tree.

A former neighbor also replied to my e-mail for information Friday. He said residents would be without electricity another week or two.

The publisher of the Picayune Item, Tom Andrews, is another good friend and fellow MPA member. Thank goodness, he’s OK, too. A generator was en route to his newspaper office so his staff could get a newspaper on the streets.

I stopped by the house Friday for a quick lunch. President Bush was visiting Biloxi, comforting victims. Many were crying on his shoulder, with their destroyed homes in the background. It was heart wrenching.

People everywhere, including those right here in Marshall and Benton counties, are reaching out to help.

Wednesday night, I attended an organizational meeting for the shelter at the Multi-Purpose Building.

In the worst of times, it was extremely encouraging to see people from our community, black and white, pulling together, in unity and in love, eager to help. It’s a lesson for us, and not just in trying times.

Volunteers were back there Thursday morning, opening the shelter and unloading donated supplies.

Friday, I visited the Byhalia shelter, being set up at the old Byhalia High School gymnasium. Again, volunteers were numerous, and all were giving, goods and/or time.

“People have shut their regular jobs down and are coming up here to help,” Mayor Scooter Dempsey said. “It’s an amazing effort.

“We have to do this. It’s the American thing and the Christian thing to do.”

Please, keep the victims of Hurricane Katrina and those in the devastated areas helping in your prayers.

It’s the most important thing we can do right now - “pray, without ceasing.”

I had the opening prayer at church Sunday.

A tear flowed from my eye as I asked God to help those who have suffered death and destruction.

That’s OK. We need to cry.


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