An invisible, oppressive layer hung everywhere. It was almost hard to breathe. There was nothing left, nothing at all. Metal from cars and buildings were still up in the highest parts of the trees, houses were ruthlessly torn from their foundations, graffiti signs marked with words likes, ‘we will come back,’ or, ‘black mold, enter at your own risk,’ or even, ‘no trespassing, looters will be shot’, were everywhere. It was almost like entering a war zone and this was three months later! All this was caused by the unmerciful winds and waves of hurricane Katrina…
My family and I went to Waveland, Mississippi through an organization called “8 Days of Hope”. It was shortly before Christmas and this was the opposite of where I wanted to be. We were there to help rebuild the Golf Coast. We walked along the beach of Bay Saint Louis and found houses that looked like doll houses that had been cut in half. In some of the rooms there were pictures still hanging perfectly on the wall, untouched, whereas the other half was missing completely.
While my family and I were there, we worked on two different houses. The first one was for a woman named Mary Labot. Mary and her family had stayed during the storm because they did not have the finances to leave. A nearby tree had fallen over during the storm and crashed into her house. She walked out onto her front porch and she said that after a minute or so the tree stood right back up and didn’t damage anything else. So we fixed her roof and cut down the tree while she fixed us the world’s best fried chicken!
Right across the street from Mary there lived a woman who my mom and I talked to. I cannot remember her name, but she was telling us that her and her family had stayed during the storm as well. She was telling us that while her and her husband were building their house they had taken the Bible and tore out the pages and planted the pages into every exterior wall. When the storm came she prayed and gave her house to God. While water started flooding all the surrounding houses the water never entered theirs. At that point she started to cry and said many times how thankful she was that there was someone kind enough to come and help them.
The stories were amazing. There was one man who was living with his family in a black mold infeststed house and they were getting sick, while at the end of the road was an empty F.E.M.A Trailer. They started having problems with gangs using the trailer for drugs. He could not move his family into the trailer because of the formaldehyde. Every day we would drive past this parking lot filled with Pods. One day I asked what they were there for, the answer scared me… they were filled with unidentified bodies.
At first I didn’t understand what truly happened and why it would matter to me. But it does matter, because what if it was me? What if it was me without a smile, living in a card board box or whose loved one was in one of those pods? If that happened to me I would want someone to help. Through helping them I helped myself. This was the trip that changed my life because through seeing, and not just my mom and dad telling me, I really did appreciate all that I received that Christmas morning and every day after.
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