Blogging from Katrina Ground Zero: Waveland, MS – Day 1

(written at 9pm CST on Thursday 10/13/2005)

My God, this is what an apocalypse looks like.

We left Seattle on 4pm on Saturday and arrived in Waveland Wednesday night at 11pm.  We were delayed by the snow storm in Denver, and we weren’t able to get the truck pulling the UHaul above 65.  It was a long trip to say the least.

We found Waveland to be solid black in the night.  Headlights miles away looked like odd glowing candles as they approached us on Hwy 607 / 90.  If I were to take a snapshot of what my parents’ street looks like, I wouldn’t be able to identify it.  Hell, I couldn’t even identify it during the daylight.

On the “good” side of the tracks, houses are still standing, but are just ruined inside.  There are just piles and piles of debris everywhere on the roads.  And, I’m being constantly reminded that the piles were much higher weeks ago, as high as telephone poles.

This morning, Kyle, my dad, and I walked down Coleman Ave.  Nothing is recognizable.    It’s amazing how you can drive down a street every day for the first 20 years of your life, then have all the landmarks removed, and next thing you know, you have no idea where you are at.  People started spray painting the names of streets onto the street itself so you knew where you were going.

St. Clare is another “Waveland Command Central”, as I like to call them.  There’s probably a technical term for it, but who cares right now.  There were two women working there as volunteers, helping to distribute items.  I explained who I was and how I was trying to help save Waveland.  I was greeted with a warm reception.  One told me that there was a mailing address for sending supplies directly to Waveland.  (I have the address, but want to confirm with them what items they need the most of.  When I have it confirmed, in the next 1-2 days, you (my loyal blog readers to have read this far) will be the first to know).  By the way, all of your physical donations from the Save Waveland fund raiser will go to St. Clare, whereas all of your monetary donations will go to Waveland Café.

FEMA at St. Clare had a very interesting sign “Feel free to vent.  We’re here for you.”

Walking down the road, we were stopped by the Red Cross.  They were driving around in a van handing out water and Poweraid to anyone who needed it.  Of course, my first reaction is “oh no, I’m good.  I’m from Seattle.  I don’t live here, so I don’t need the water.”  Then 15 minutes later in the noon sun, as I’m baking, I wished I had taken them up on their offer.  Now I’m starting to understand what life is really like down here.

We walked down Vacation Lane back towards the house, when we met a lady standing outside of what used to be her home.  Again, it is so hard to hide emotions during such times.  Normally, I’ll ask someone “how are you” as a “hello, nice to meet you,” but I have decided to stop asking that.

She had a really interesting photograph that was destroyed by Katrina, but the image that remained was really neat.  I told her to sell it on Ebay.   Hell, why not.

She told me the story of the people next door to her.  An elderly couple decided to ride out the storm just 1 block from the beach.  The man had to climb through a crack in the attic, jump in a boat in the backyard (that had drifted to the house) and ride it out there.  His wife wasn’t able to fit through the crack, so when the wall came crashing down, she got on a piece of pilewood or some other raft-like debris.  Both survived.

My family and I ate lunch at the Waveland Café, and I’m sure we’ll be back tomorrow.  It is hosted by  If you want to donate directly to Waveland, donate to this group.  MSFTs:  I’m working on setting up their 5013c with our giving campaign, so hopefully it’ll appear on the giving campaign site soon.  If it weren’t for them, I would be a whole lot hungrier than I am right now.  And so would many other people.  Makes me teary-eyed thinking about it.

I have never been served food in such a fashion before.  It was way too overwhelming when I was handed a plate of food by a high school girl from Florida.  Seeing all the people waiting in line with their shopping carts to get donations, seeing people I grew up with in the same line waiting to get food.  How do you take this all in after just a few hours?

I went to the “command ops” booth behind everything and said, “I’m a Microsoft employee, and I want to donate lots of money to keep this place up and running.  Who can I talk with?”  I doubt the volunteer had ever looked so happy since Katrina hit.  I met the man in charge of the Waveland Café place.  He’s actually got a friend at MSFT that I have to lookup when I get back.  I got the direct number to the guy handling their funds, so not only will I be able to send them directly the fundraiser money (I was too scared to bring 1000 bucks in cash down there from the nearest working ATM / my bank), but I finally see a light at the end of the tunnel for getting Waveland Café hooked up with the Giving Campaign.

After we got back from the Café, I called my aunt to give us a tour of Waveland.  We started off at my childhood home (aka, my babysitters when I was a kid).  I practically lived there, and the lady who took care of me I consider to be my grandmother.  The house is at least 50 yards from its foundation, maybe more.  It went sailing across the neighbor’s house and into the house next to it to stop it.  There are parts of the shed and carport lying between.  I made the mistake of looking inside.  I don’t know how to describe how a house can look “dead”, but the childhood home where when I walked inside of it just last year called out to me, “Stay, be loved, be safe, take as long as you need” had died.  There were no feelings of love emanating from the house, only death.  No one was home – everyone in the family had evacuated (thank the lord), but the house itself had died, and a part of me died right there too.  I learned the real meaning “you can never go home again.”  I will never be able to go home again.

Since the house was tagged yellow, meaning it is safe to collect belongings, we’re going to head back hopefully tomorrow to try to salvage some stuff.  I just want something, anything to take back home, even if it is a light switch.  Anything of interest will obviously be saved for my grandmother’s family – bless their hearts.  As I told her daughter on the phone, if you need to sell, you just make me an offer.  I will rebuild.

We continued our “tour” of waveland along the beach road.  It’s just more chaos, destruction, and disbelief.  This is NOTHING like Camile.  NOTHING.  Camile was all about wind.  This is all about water, and apparently water is stronger than wind.  After a while, you just shut down.  It becomes just too much to take in, house after house after house just flattened like pancakes and then gutted by the water.  We’re talking 1000s of homes flattened like pancakes and gutted.

We stopped by OLA (my high school).  The pictures said it all, but looking side the schoolbus really got to me.  Having played so many sports in high school, I spent a lot of time on the bus, just like all the other athletes.  It was a sad sight.

One man at one of the stops on our tour said that he saw a wall of debris coming straight for him, not a wall of water, but a wall of debris.  Can you imagine seeing something like that?

Anyways, our tour ended seeing Casino Magic Bay St. Louis washed ashore in Diamondhead.  For those of you who don’t know the area, the casino was on the wrong side of the lake / bay.  It sailed completely across.

Tonight we went back to Waveland Café for dinner.  I have always been on the “serving-side” of the soup kitchen line.  Never had I been on the receiving line. I find it extremely hard to eat there; it so emotional.  And then when we get to the house, I’m starving again.

Okay, to keep my sanity, here’s some good news.  My old karate dojo from Waveland is working out on Mondays and Wednesday in Diamondhead, so I’m going to work out next week.  My black belt exam is November 11.  I’m really concerned I won’t be able to focus for the exam, hence why I want to keep working out while I’m down here. 

I’m off to bed now in my cousin’s trailer (he was supervisor for the year at Casino Magic in Bay St. Louis, so he got a free trip to Disney World for this week).  Right now, I feel terribly sad.  There’s some sort of cat howling competition going on right now outside.  I feel their pain.

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