When I went to Biloxi in January 2006, I drove through vast stretches of desolate land. There was still no green in the trees. All the leaves had been torn from the trees when hurricane Katrina swept across the land in a wash of destructive force of wind, waves, and storm surge. At one place there was a stretch of land a mile long, where one of the casino barges had completely obliterated all the homes in its path when the waters carried it away from its moorings.
Amidst all this destruction, between the houses caked with mud and the orange crosses marked on each house by the search teams, the cars packed in small crevices like a jigsaw puzzle, the accumulation of an entire town’s trash plastered to bare tree trunks, were people working to make order of the mess.
The people had scattered, they had left the place they had called home, sent away by an encroaching storm. But there were those who were working to make it safe, like home again.
I joined those who worked to gut a house of a woman where the water had come up to the level of her ceiling. As I pulled insulation and trash from her attic, I found a program from her church, with a photograph of her parents on the cover. This may be the only extant photograph that she now has of her parents. It was buried in many other papers and scraps of waterlogged sheetrock. But it was found, and she rejoiced because it was preserved for her to share. And we indeed did celebrate.