Thursday, September 15, 2005

Letter to the Editor

Katrina...:

There was no way to prepare for the horror and destruction of Katrina. Hurricanes are a natural occurrence, especially on the Gulf of Mexico. Modern citizens of Pass Christian, Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Long Beach and surrounding areas have believed that they are immune from such horrible destruction. Pass Christian boasted the United States’ oldest yacht club of over 60 years.

In the past two years my mother and I have settled into our new community and acquired many new friends. We would have never guessed that the greatest natural disaster since Camille would take our newfound life away in less than 12 hours.

The Saturday before Katrina hit, my mother and I were watching the news and looking up the hurricane on the Internet. We were trying to find out if there was a mandatory evacuation for our area. New Orleans had already been warned about Katrina and most of the people had already left.

After we had heard no mention of our area from the news or the Internet, my mother told me to pack all the clothing that I would need for a week. On Sunday morning, I left my house in my car and started on my way to Cleveland. I brought two of my three cats with me, Popeye and Lyla. My mother was not able to evacuate due to her occupation as a nurse.

When I arrived in Cleveland, I had no idea that I would be there for four or more months. My prediction was that the hurricane would hit directly on New Orleans. Many of my friends had the same view. We all thought that the hurricane would miss us entirely.

There are so many hurricane scares on the coast. Every time a hurricane warning is issued, people have to board up their windows, pack all of their valuables, and make sure that they have all the first aid supplies and water that they might need in case of an emergency.

Hurricane warnings are very frequent but few hurricanes actually make landfall in our area. The last powerful hurricane with less damage than Katrina was Camille. Camille hit the coast between Biloxi and Gulf Port on Sept. 17, 1969. Needless to say, most everyone was desensitized to hurricanes.

Sunday night was the last time I would hear my mother’s voice. All day long on Monday, I sat nervously on the couch. I did not stop praying. I could not believe what I saw on the news. My school, my house, my mom, and my cat were possibly destroyed.

My whole life was destroyed. I could not reach my mother on the phone for days. I prayed to the Lord that my mother would be all right. I did not want to believe that the one person whom I had depended upon my whole life was dead. I knew that God would take care of her.

Finally, on Wednesday I answered the phone and it was my mother. She was driving home from work. There were too many fallen trees to drive directly to my house. Mother saw one of our neighbors and inquired about our home. “There is not a shingle missing,” said Mr. Mike. My mother was thrilled. A huge tree fell inches from one side of our house. Only an airvent blew off and was on the front lawn and the fence is in shatters.

One-third of the nursing home that my mother worked in during Hurricane Katrina was blown away by the harsh winds. My mother believed she saw the eye of Katrina. She will enjoy telling the story of how she survived Katrina to her grandchildren someday. A 20-foot wall of water came in from the bay near Bay St. Louis and Pass Christian crushing both my school and my best friend’s home.

I had a wonderful school. Our Lady Academy, or OLA, was the best college preparatory school in Mississippi. I attended OLA for my sophomore year and the beginning of junior year in high school. I loved my teachers and my classmates.

OLA was a challenge academically. There was never a week at school where there was not an essay to write or a project to finish. I always had an enormous amount of homework every night. I learned to never stop moving at OLA. Also, I discovered my passion for learning. It was thrilling to be ahead of the class. Every girl at OLA was going to be a huge success.

Carolan was my best friend at OLA. I met her on my very first day at Our Lady Academy. We had so much fun together. She was from everywhere. She lived in Pennsylvania, Washington, California and Mississippi.

After her house was destroyed, she moved back to Washington. I’m going to miss her. With new technology and the Internet I will keep in touch with her. Luckily, I am a frequent flyer. I have a free plane ticket to Washington. Also, Carolan’s mom and my aunt have offered to pay for my ticket. I can not wait to visit her in Washington.

Enrolling again at Bayou Academy was not a huge adjustment for me. I already knew most of the people. However, adjusting to living with my grandmother was not easy at all. When I lived with my mother, we had a trust that my grandmother and I do not have. My mother knows that I do not do drugs, drink alcohol, or party. Conversely, my grandmother is always watching me.

After all of the excitement and the destruction, I think I handled the situation very well. I am happy that my house is all right. Most of all, I am thankful that my mother is alive and well. I can hope that another disaster like Katrina never happens again, but I know it will.

I hope that the other victims of Katrina have found the help that they need. Hope and God are the only things that kept me from falling apart. When I cannot cope, God gives me hope.

We are grateful to have been spared, but things are not over for us. I must live my grandmother for one school year in Cleveland, while my mother is staying with 26 of her residents from Picayune. They are residing at Trinity Mission of Great Oaks in Byhalia.

We are still apart and sad. When we go home again to Diamondhead our lives will not be as before, but we have each other. We have the love of our friends, relatives, and the community of Byhalia.

Mother loves Byhalia and says it is the last little great American town. I will be there for the festival Oct. 8. Now we can celebrate again. See you there.

Holly Lindsey Graham
Age 16


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