Our work crew from Memorial UCC has settled in for the night. We arrived by car (John Hilliard, John Van Overbeke, Jim Myhew and Howard Cosgrove) and by plane (Phil Haslanger, Denise Brandl, Mary Upshaw, Dave and Linda Michael. By midafternoon, we had settled into our trailor at the Back Bay Mission site. Then we were off to New Orleans to explore a bit of the city.
Katrina remains a dominant presence here. On the flight from Memphis to Gulfport, I was talking with a woman who lives about 30 miles north of Biloxi. "Did Katrina affect you?" I asked. "Five and half feet of water," she replied. She and her three children -- then ages 5, 7 and 12 -- had taken refuge at her mother's place in another community before the storm. But even there, they watched water with white caps rush down the street. At their home, water destroyed everything. They lived in trailor for a year or so, now they are back home.
As Denise, Mary and I drove from the airport in Gulfport along the Gulf Coast to Biloxi, we saw a study in contrasts:
* The white sand on the beaches, carefully tended but still pretty unsafe as a result of all the debris washed up by Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005.
* Palm trees snapped off and dying on one side of the street, bushes manicured into the shape of dolphins in front of a resort on the other side.
* Brand new buildings next to empty lots next to the shells of buildings torn apart by the storm.
* Stretches of emptiness offset by casinos rising high into the sky, neon lights flashing.
And so it goes.