October 8, 2005 – I do believe in giving credit where credit is due. There is progress happening down South but extremely slowly.
The shelters in Meridian have been closed and the people have either been relocated or housed by other means. This is a positive step in the recovery process, especially psychologically for these people. Pearlington no longer has a significant presence of the Army National Guard. The shelter and set up is much different from the first time I was down there. The police from different states have been taking turns keeping guard. There is a church taking care of the meals. Things were shifted to be more productive and efficient.
There are signs of life returning. We saw a seagull at Waveland beach, heard the sounds of crickets in Kiln, watched a squirrel chase another up a tree and saw a frog in Pearlington. These are signs that the animals know that it is safe to return.
There are some very negative things happening that need to be addressed. First, the people of Pearlington need Porta-Potties. The vendor went in and took the Porta-Potties out because either they lost their contract or because FEMA was bouncing checks. Either way, the people are urinating and defecating on the ground behind the tents they are forced to sleep in. Even though there is a shelter, the location and the living situation is not conducive to the needs of the people, so the people are doing what they need to do to survive.
According to the governor’s office, the local government tried to take the control out of FEMA's hands. Their good intentions were without follow through, so the people of Pearlington had to suffer and the replacement Porta-Potties never showed up.
Why hasn't Pearlington received any trailers yet? People are sleeping in tents and under tarps because their homes are uninhabitable. People are fighting off coyotes because they had no waste removal. After speaking to Angel Dawsey, a resident of Pearlington I speak to regularly, she advised me of the wild dog problem and I called Wildlife and Fisheries. A gentleman named Ricky Flatts was very helpful by putting me in touch with a local law enforcement officer named David Dry. Mr. Dry stated that he would drive through Pearlington, assess the situation, and see what he could do to get these people the garbage containers that they needed to help contain the waste and minimize the coyote problem. Pearlington didn't get their first garbage pick up until two months after the storm.
Another sad situation is that a representative of FEMA told Angel Dawsey the reason why FEMA is handling the situation as they are is because they "do not want the people becoming dependent on them." What is this man thinking? These people do not want to become dependent. In fact, if it were up to the people, they would be self-sufficient already. It took a great deal of swallowing pride for the people to accept the support they are receiving. They realize that they need the help right now and when stated in the right way, it is easier for them to take. My heart goes out to all of the residents of Pearlington, Kiln, Waveland, and Dedeaux because their communities are completely devastated. A month and a half later, they are still having their dignity ripped from them at the hands of the government and insurance companies.
If I hadn’t seen it firsthand, it would be hard to imagine. A mental image for people is this: the Jordan River Shores area of Kiln is 11 miles inland. Steve and Cecelia Howard's house is on 12-foot stilts. They had 25-30 feet of storm surge destroy their home while it was 11 miles inland!
That's some of the good and the bad. There's more work to be done, and more stories to tel.
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