Kathleen Koch is a former CNN correspondent and author of this week's pick, "Rising From Katrina: How My Mississippi Hometown Lost It All And Found What Mattered," published by Blair. Part of the proceeds will go to charities still helping Katrina victims on the Gulf Coast. Many of you may recall Kathleen's excellent reporting from the Mississippi Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Those of us who had the pleasure of working with her at CNN are thrilled to be able to share this LKL Web Exclusive from Kathleen.
Anniversaries are a time for remembering, taking account. But that doesn’t apply to the Mississippi Gulf Coast on the fifth anniversary of Katrina. Because there’s no remembering something most Americans never knew – that the brunt of the monster hurricane decimated the entire length of the eighty-mile-long Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The collapse of the levees to the west in New Orleans was a compelling, ongoing drama. It impacted more people since some 1.3 million lived in the Crescent City and the surrounding eight parishes compared to the 366,472 residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. And then Hurricane Rita blew in, inundating New Orleans again.
In Mississippi, the roaring 125-mph winds and crushing thirty-plus-foot storm surge shredded the beachfront home where I’d grown up, most of my hometown of Bay St. Louis, and reduced nearly every structure in the first half mile along the water to a slab. There are no levees on our Gulf Coast. In fact, at thirty feet in elevation downtown Bay St. Louis is the highest point in the United States on the Gulf of Mexico. But it offered no protection from Katrina. The winds and storm surge swept in and out in a day, leaving little behind untouched.
From day one when the nation’s attention focused on New Orleans, people climbing out of the rubble of the Mississippi Gulf Coast wondered why no one was paying attention, why no one seemed to care. To its credit, CNN had several reporters including me there, and Anderson Cooper anchored many of his shows that first week from Mississippi. In the year following the hurricane, I did two documentaries tracking my hometown’s recovery. I was back reporting on the second and third anniversaries.
I found my friends and neighbors were survivors, not victims. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work helping one another. Mississippi may have been 50th in the nation in income, but it ranked first in per capita philanthropy. The “Hospitality State” had a long tradition of taking care of its own.
Still, more than a half million volunteers poured in from around the country and the world to join in the rebuilding. Some showed up on their own in cars stuffed with supplies. Others travelled south in buses, most to a place they’d never even heard of before the hurricane.
Their generosity and dedication kept the exhausted residents going. Many believe volunteers are largely responsible for the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s recovery. We all know that there is no way we can ever repay them for what they have done.
On the fifth anniversary, the area has come far. Many homes and businesses have rebuilt. Many residents who left have returned. Some areas like Bay St. Louis were on track to hit pre-Katrina tax levels again.
Then came the oil spill. Though it didn’t hit the Mississippi mainland until the Fourth of July weekend, it crushed the recovery. The beaches are clear again. But just like after Katrina, residents are again wondering when and if their lives will ever return to normal.
Posted by: LKL Producer Michael WattsFiled under: Hurricane Katrina LKL Web Exclusive
Great and wonderful book from Kathleen Koch.
Almost as good as the book "CHAMELEON"
You really hit the nail on the head with this one. As a native of Bay St. Louis I have lived first hand the devastation of Katrina. I ended up leaving the Coast to finish college in West Virginia. My family is still there, surviving, but not thriving. I was home in April and it was the first time I could actually tell that our town was actually starting to come alive again. Then the oil came.... I just recently returned to WV from the coast for a short summer break. It is so hard for me to go home, or even think about the coast because I don't think it will ever be the same. It's hard for people my age (mid twenties) to perceive moving back because opportunities there are not what they were. We have really had to go off and be survivors elsewhere, and with the economy the way it is, it is certainly difficult to stay afloat. Thanks for your continued support for our city. I appreciate the people who have been able to stay and help our town resurface to it's pre-Katrina state.
I live on the Mississippi Gulf coast. Would I recommend This Book ?
Absolutely!! I went through Katrina. What Kathleen writes should be required reading For every Emergency manager. She complains that MEMA, FEMA and relief agencies did not arrive until days or weeks later.
I remember the travesty they committed by stealing the diesel fuel from the cell phone towers, radio stations,and TV stations. Local hospitals could not talk to each other.
Kathleen your book could not bring the howling winds or sting of rain in my face but my tears made a good substitute. God Bless Her!
So much to say so little time. Please give her a big Hug from the gulf coast.
Rebuilding New Orleans wards below sea-level where they were previously is simply more Republican Potty insanity, a total waste of Billions of taxpayer dollars behind levee's that in no fashion nor way can protect New Orleans against another super Hurricane and resulting storm surge.
This is like Louisiana drilling another deep Ocean Oil well in it's waters using yet another broken blow-out preventer!
The issue here isn't the sensitivity of the issue, it is common sense. Louisiana citizens are Americans and America has teamed and bailed out Louisiana twice in back to back massive efforts. However, Louisiana has placed themselves at the same place where those tragically took place before. Instead of building up New Orleans wards some 10 feet higher, they built them where they were. Instead of forcing deep Oil well sites to perform safety checks on their critical equipment and submit environmental and emergency plans on each well, Louisiana courts ruled they didn't have to!
Louisiana has 2 major strikes and is sitting itself up for another?
@Smith in Oregon,
What in the world does rebuilding NO below sea level have to do with Republicans? I don't know that you serve your party well.
It is ridiculous to rebuild below sea level, however.
It is undeniable that our weather is changing rapidly, with records rains, record snowfalls and record hurricanes.
The sea levels will rise 10 feet to 20 feet, depending on whom do you believe, meaning that New Orleans, a great part of Florida, Georgia and other coastal areas will become hunting grounds for fish.
To rebuild New Orleans in the same location is insane and guarantees only the future destruction. Build an aquarium and wait for the fish to arrive.
@ Cathy, it is important to remember that the Govenor of the state is a Repugnant, the former Repugnant administration are as much to blame for the Katrina disaster as the terrible weather.
It has been documented and proven, that if the Repugnant administration had of reacted in a timely manner, 50% of the problem could have been averted.
It is important to note that when the re-construction effort began, it was a Repugnant administration that was in power.
I think SMITH IN OREGON has it 100% right when he blames the MORONIC Repugnant administration for the problems the NO citizens are trying to correct this day.
One must adjudicate the blame where it belongs
GWB and his gang of cohorts comes to mind.
Interesting given the mindset of some.
When did George Bush become mayor of New Orleans and governor of Louisiana?
I mean, if he’s expected to fulfill the duties of those positions PLUS the Louisiana legislature PLUS the New Orleans city council, is he going to be collecting a pension from all those roles?
And why are we paying the people actually IN those positions? Aren’t they supposed to be doing the actual job of rebuilding New Orleans?
Oh, I guess those are all just for show. Their main (and only) job is to point to Bush and complain.
It was really funny watching the aftermath of the hurricane going through Mexico. Within hours, the Mexicans were up on their roofs, nailing things back together, repairing walls, replacing doors, fixing windows.
I guess it just goes to show, while MOST normal people roll up their sleeves and get to work, there are still lots of people in America who think "the government" is going to come to their rescue and they just need to sit and wait while the work gets done for them by someone else.
So pathetic. Cry me a river New Orleans.
America, not just Bush, owes NOTHING to New Orleans.
2 years before Katrina even hit, there was a Frontline documentary about how unprepared they were for a major hurricane, how NO is basically a bowl under sea level, and a single breach of the levee system would be catastrophic.
But, not to worry (PBS assured us), the DEMOCRAT governor and mayor were receiving hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars to reinforce the levee system and insure this would never, ever, possibly happen.
Then it did happen.
So what happened to all that money?
Well, it turns out, they had other needs for it. More important needs.
And this, somehow, is not only Bush’s fault, but all American’s fault?
Sorry, it doesn’t wash.
And what happened to the very people DESERVING the blame for this catastrophe? They got re-elected. Overwhelmingly so.
The true definition of INSANITY.
Mayor Ray "Chocolate" Nagin is black.
Governor Kathleen "Drawing a Blank" Blanco is a woman.
Both are protected classes. The mainstream media will not hold any member of the protected classes accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. It also will not hold people responsible for living below sea level on the coast. Nature cannot be defeated by man. People should be free to live where they want, but the taxpayers should not be forced to pay nearly 200 billion dollars so people can continue to do so. Most of which has "disappeared" into various pockets. The natural state of New Orleans is underwater, and wishful thinking won’t change that.
@Simith in Oregon
You are so misinformed it would be funny except that it's such a serious matter. Just to set the record straight Louisiana has nothing do with approving Deep Water Offshore Drilling or stopping it, that is strictly controlled by the Feds. I notice your from Oregon and made some tasteless remark about Rebpublicans so I presume you're one of the ridiculous left wing lunatics from the Northwest who are too busy hugging their tree and smoking thier joint to understand the real world.
I guess it's really hard for people to understand the devasatation that storms can cause,anywhere!!! If Katrina hit Miami beach,would you rebuild there ????What about Hawaii??? Please stop blaming the people of Louisiana ,We did not build the city here,We were born here,We love our home town, like anyone esle would !!! Give us a break!
This book is a compilation of stories and struggles of both Kathleen Koch and the town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. It is certainly not a political dispute nor in offense to the republican party. Considering the location of Katrina's devastation, a considerably amount of victims were probably republicans and like normal human beings, were all desperate for aid and normalcy. Imagine if such a disaster occurred in your home town, took the lives of your loved ones and destroyed everything you knew and loved. By writing this book she has brought people together. She has assured many that their stories, struggles, and aid haven't gone unnoticed or unappreciated. And despite the many obstacles, has given her small town the recognition it deserves.
Now give her the respect she deserves.
Is it true that GENERAL "LEE" was known as the most bigotted anti black racist to ever exist in the United States of America.
History tellls us that his standing order was that if a black person was seen on the field of battle, that it was every confederate soldiers duty to make sure he was killed.
General "LEE" was one of the first ever declared REPUBLICAN
Is that why the Republicans hate President Obama so much.
If General "LEE" still lived today, would he give the order to all his Republican followers to kill President Obama, just because he is not white.
Questions about American history to ponder.
I MUST SAY.
What a great story. Would like to read the book.
@Gerald Jolly August 17th, 2010 7:16 pm ET
God forbid, hope not! Help them I say! Pray for them!
I think Ms. Cathleen had a good point. If this was any other major sea port, other than New Orleans.....It would be rebuilt, no questions asked!
And I also believe our Governor and Mayor dropped the ball big time...And there should have been consequences for such poor decisions and actions. But like someone said, she was female and he was black. And for one minute if you think that doesn't matter you are sadly wrong. We live in a world where we can't tell it like it is... like calling a spade a spade.....a thief and a crook a thief and a crook.... NO....we will hurt someones feelings!!!!!! Our brave forefathers are rolling over in there graves, the sacrifices they made so we can have a guy like "smith in Oregon" make comments he has no right to make, about a place he has heard on the news about, instead of being there and helping instead of giving his opinion that means nothing to a person who has lived through it. Remember you can make anything look good on paper, and also make it look very bad. And that is what has happened here.......I think the bottom line to everything is... actions speak much louder than words!!!!
Miss Bay St. Louis has a stellar mind, polished a tad by a few USM professors. I often hear rave reviews about her Katrina coverage from present and former residents of the Bay, Pass Christian and Waveland - including the owner of a villa in Puerto Rico who spent some of the best days of his life in Waveland and follows Mississippi Gulf Coast developments via the Internet . "She is an excellent writer," he wrote atop a note informing me about her book, "Rising From Katrina: How My Mississippi Hometown Lost It All And Found What Mattered." I plan to read it soon. The post from Watts on this CNN site recalls the view hours after the surge washed back into the sound: Nearly every structure in a half mile along the water was reduced to a slab. For those who live far from the Koch home on Ramaneda Street in Bay St. Louis, this was a pre-Katrina shoreline dotted with some of the Bay's most appealing, posh and quirky architecture, which served as landmarks for day sailors and others. In an instant, that pre-Katrina shoreline resembled the preserved natural landscapes celebrated in many of our national parks. Above the barely visible scars of a civilization washed away towered acres of hearty trees with their leaves fluttering in winds coming off the sound.
Is America doing enough for New Orleans or does New Orleans belong to the past? What needs to be done to join New York standard?
I was part of the National Park Service contingent that went to Mississippi for the entire month of November 1995. We worked in the Bay St. Louis-Waveland area. The devastation was shocking, but what impressed me most were the efforts the locals were making to recover. When I compared what I saw there with the "When is the governmnt going to do to fix New Orleans!" attitude in Louisiana I gained even more respect for the Gulf Coast Mississipians. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
I did think it was odd that the Waveland city council was discussing what the minimum height for new construction would be. Since the water was at least 36 feed deep in places when the storm came ashore, anything less will wash away in the future.
Trying to fix things after such a disaster is so difficult. Every body wants everything quickly and cheaply and of good quality. In reality, you can only have two. If is is cheap and quick, it won't be good. If it is quick and good, it won't be cheap. If it is good and cheap, it won't be good. In other words, don't wait for the government.
Hooray for Mississippi!
I should have said "if it is good and cheap, it won't be quick.
Her book is fantastic! No one who drove to Waveland afterward can forget that the beach was lifted 6 blocks inland and deposited there, while the original beach is now a long coral strip with NO SAND!where the houses stood were just slabs.
After the National Guard left, i drove over to New Orleans from my home on the North Shore, and saw block after block of flooded, mildewing "shotgun" houses–my home was destroyed not by the flood but by one of the 100 tornadoes that came afterward (my daughter went up with a pilot friend) and they could see the swirling shapes where each touched the ground. Driving up Route 59 from New Orleans to Meridien Miss, all the trees were snapped off to a height of 10 feet . President Bush made 29 billion dollars available, most of which has simply disappeared into the corrupt pockets of the N.O. political establishment–no disaster planning had even been done, and this continues to this day. Mayor Nagin simply moved to Dallas.
Once again New Orleans is in the spotlight for the 5th anniversary of Katrina. New Orleans destruction was a man made mistake; the Mississippi Gulf Coast was devasted by the "actual" storm. I know it sounds romantic to focus on a well know city than to actually focus on the actual survivors of the storm and not the survivors over the levee not holding. Also, it gives you more of a controversial story in New Orleans than the MS Gulf Coast, who just rebuilt... We are still rising with or without the news media..Enjoy your stay in NO with your emmy and pulitzer without the truth..
Biloxi MS was my home for over 35 years. I had been through my share of Hurricanes, but nothing prepared me for Katrina. I evacuated to Florida the week before the storm (if no one remembers Biloxi was a direct hit from another hurricane the week before Katrina). Nothing could describe the devastation that I saw. Five years later I still can not talk about my "hometown" without sorrow. I had spent the last 15 years there building my retirement future (I had 5 mobile homes, two houses). I lost everything in a matter of hours. I did not qualify for help from FEMA as I owned everything outright and had no insurance on anything. I went from being well off to living in a 24 ft travel trailer (not FEMAs, I owned this one myself). Yet I stayed there in the community for another year and half to work with my community to rebuild our lives. After that time, I had to leave to move to Kentucky. Our government failed everyone in that area. Haliburton came in and took every government contract for clean-up and restructuring, and the locals could not even get hired to help to start rebuilding their lives. They also land grabbed from the locals to be able to build the casinos on land that peoples homes had been decimated on. The state government passed the law that the casinos could be land based instead on being on the barges on the water (this law was passed with lightening speed. Surprise! Surprise!). I have nothing but praise for all the volunteers that poured in. God Bless everyone of them! But as for our government....Shame on you! You failed your own people when they needed it most. You stole land from destitutes, you stole peoples memories, you stole our trust in our country. You are currently sending millions of our tax payers money to Pakistan for the flood, but there are still people who are living in squalor in your own back yard and you are not doing anything. We are not looking for a handout, just a hand up!
People wake up! Use the voice God gave you. Stand up for your fellow man here in the U.S.A. Stop the flow of our taxes going to other countries that could care less about us. Let their own governments take care of them. Demand that ours take care of our own who are living in desperation. I would like nothing better than to go back to my hometown of Biloxi. But there is nothing there to go home to.
My fellow Mississippians are to be applauded for their "The Lord helps those that help themselves" attitude after Katrina.
If one followed only the media for the last five years, it would appear that New Orleans was the only place affected. How much federal money has been poured into New Orleans as compared to the rest of the devastated coast? The highly spotlighted Ninth Ward was a crime infested ghetto which local police of any race would not enter before the storm, yet the media screaming about the fact that little has been done to rebuild it for the same inhabitants. I have personally watched as Ninth Ward inhabitants stood watching out of state volunteers worked to rebuild their houses–offering no help. So many of the people of New Orleans seem have the notion that the federal government is Mom and Dad and they are dependent, helpless children. Get over it–take a hint from the folks who dug in and worked with their own hands for their own salvation from Katrina.
CNN–why have you not interviewed/featured the US military medical team which went to the Super Dome to help? They had to retreat as gangs fired on them and demanded the drugs they brought? Why didn't you feature WalMart where this team broke in, re-supplied themselves with medical supplies and left an inventory of everything they took. WalMart responded by asking what else they needed and sent truckloads of medical supplies. Didn't hear about that on CNN, either. Get off your politically correct rears and tell the whole story.
Funny how this article is about the largely ignored story of the devastated Mississippi coast and people (myself included) are STILL talking largely about New Orleans and Louisiana. The MS coast was all but washed away by Katrina. The devastation in New Orleans and St. Bernard was terrible, but Louisiana has gotten more than enough attention and aid. The people of Mississippi (and even towns in coastal Alabama–that's right, Katrina destroyed homes in AL, too, though the media didn't tell you that) are rebuilding, but there are still many people who live in FEMA cottages. New Orleans has come a long way–I've visited often both before and after Katrina–but the attitude of SOME (not all) residents and leaders needs to change. There appears to be a lot of resentment toward the city from outsiders and from people who also went through similar disasters, and I think much of it is deserved. Good people in LA/MS/AL lost everything and are rebuilding and helping themselves, but many have the "give me" attitude, which is disgusting. Yes, the COE is responsible for engineering flaws in the levee system, but when you drain swamps and build homes on those drained swamps, your neighborhood will sink and become more vulnerable than it was before, above or below sea level. Also, yes, oil companies have torn up the wetlands, but you've also destroyed your own wetlands by building canals and flood walls and not allowing the Mississippi to flood as it did for hundreds of years. Also, yes, the federal response was slow and could've been more effective, but Mayor Nagin and Gov. Blanco are largely responsible for the handling of the city during and after the flooding. New Orleans is beautiful and has a lot of culture that should by all means be preserved, but so does the entire Gulf Coast that suffered from Katrina. I've driven along the MS coast and it's starting to come back to life, but much of it is heartbreaking. MS leaders seem to be looking in the right direction, however, and the resilience of its residents will bring the coast back. It's too bad the media cares only about manipulating events to make a "story." If that weren't the case, then maybe Mississippi's actual story would've been told before. The Gulf Coast is a wonderful place, and so are its people. Attention and assistance shouldn't be poured into one place.
Dear CNN : It seems to me that everyone has totally ignored the devastation that the Katrina brought to the Missippi Gulf Coast. My husband and I drove to Biloxi 2 weeks after the storm. There was nothing left except foundations where there once were homes and businesses. Yet, you didn't here the people of Mississippi whining about the government not taking care of them. They just got in there and did what needed to be done. I am so sick of hearing about New Orleans and their problems when most of them were created by themselves. Mayor "Chocolate" Nagin could have avoided most of the problems by loading up empty school buses and city buses and taking most of the city out of harms way. Instead, the buses sat there empty and ended up being destroyed by the storm. So how long do we have to suffer through the stories of New Orleans and there citizens who chose to just sit there and wait for government hand outs. My husband and I watched what people did with the money that the government gave to these people. Instead of using it to get back on their feet they bought items like new $100.00 sneakers and Ipods. Give me a break. Everyone is over "poor New Orleans", What about Mississippi? They can take their "Chocolate City" and eat it.
I lived in the ninth ward when Katrina hit. I am also white, so this whole black or white thing is ridiculous. I NEVER received any money from Fema or anyone for that matter. My house was under 18 ft of water. We lost everything. But, we moved on and have rebuilt our lives. Not everyone blames the government or wanted the governments fault. Please remember there are people like us who just wanted to get things back to normal and we did what we had to do to give our children stability again.
I meant to say, not everyone blames the government or wanted the governments help.
No one on earth feels more sympathy for the people of New Orleans than the fine people of Mississippi. We live 1 1/2 hours inland and our county was devastated. We woke one morning in the United States of America and by that evening we were living in some third world country. As soon as the winds died down we broke out the chain saws and cleared our own roads and highways. Lived with out power or water for 3 weeks. We stood or sat in lines for hours for a few gallons of gas. Stood in another line to be allowed a few at a time to enter a grocery store to purchase what little was left on the shelves. No phone service, no 911, no law enforcement we were truly on our own. Being ignored is nothing new to Mississippi and only the negative about our state is reported. Most of our country believes we are all skin head racist. Following Katrina we were not black, white, yellow or green we were Mississippians and all we had were each other.
I think an important point that is being left out for Mississippi is the ensuing depression of 2008 that continues to the present day. The three Mississippi Gulf Coast Counties are suffering from the down turn in the economy with a continued high unemployment rate look at the Casino Industry as an example who have laid off some 40% or more of employees, it is hard to recover during a depression of this magnitude. I would not blame anyone native Mississipian or transplant who would give up and leave this area.
thank you, thank you, thank you for focusing on the MS Gulf Coast!!! We are the forgotten ones of Katrina. Many of the places my most important childhood memories took place no longer exist but in there place is the greatest memory of the way a community came together as 1 and rebuilt our amazing MS Gulf Coast! Mother nature, not something man-made, wrecked our community, but it never wrecked our spirit.
I am insulted every time I watch or read about Katrina. The special reports on cnn have only covered New Orleans. Why is it Mississppi gets all the negative reports? We truly are the forgotten victims. Thanks cnn for forgetting about us. I am truly dissappointed in my favorite news station (was my favorite) No need to comment anymore the comments previous pretty much says it all.
Agasin I watched in disbelief as CNN reported on the 5 year anniversary of Katrina. Once again, the focus is always on New Orleans and not the residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
My children live there in Pass Christian and were devastated by Katrina and are still struggling to reestablish themselves. My son's home was destroyed and he and his family lost everything that they owned. I was living and working in Texas at the time and immediately I tried to call the Red Cross to try and find out if they were okay. I was told that they couldn't even get into the area where they lived. Funny thing though, my husband and myself left Texas and drove all the way to Pass Christian and right up to what was left of their residence. Talk about suprised! They most certainly were. We loaded the back of our SUV with water, food etc (as much as we could haul) and took it to them. We stayed for a few days with them in what was left of their home and it took 3 days before ANYONE even came to see who was alive. I am outraged that the only reports we get about devastation are about NEw Orleans. We were there and know first hand what horrible atrocities occurred in Mississippi. It seems that while NO was also devastated, they are the only ones who are mentioned.
THis morning I was watching and saw a teaser re: Mississippi Gulf Coast and then the story lasted about 3 seconds and moved BACK to NO. Thank God that Mississippians are a tough and hearty people! They have done for themselves when nobody else has!
I lived in Moss Point, MS at the time of Katrina. I had to swim out of my house during the storm to get help for my father and disabled mother. It took me three hours to swim what would normally be a five minute walk. Yet after the storm, all I could hear was, "Poor New Orleans!"
I have just returned from my third trip down to the Gulfcoast to rebuild wiht Habitat and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. Each year I go I am amazed at how little along the coast has been rebuilt and also how much destruction there was from Hurricane Katrina. I have never been to Bay St. Louis, but I will visit next year when I go again to help rebuild.
I just finished Kathleen's Book, Rising from Katrina adn she has given me renewed energy to recruit others to go with me to help rebuild an area that was hit hardest and forgotten quickest during this storm. I hope I can lead another Thrivent Builds trip in 2011 as the need is still there.
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