A letter from Mississippi
September 30, 2005
This etter was originally addressed to Aspen Times reporter Naomi Havlen.Dear Editor:I was browsing through the Internet and came across your article in The Aspen Times where a relief caravan was bound for devastated Pearlington. As I was reading your article all I could do was cry. You see, that is my hometown. I was reared there, and my parents still live there, or should I say, lived there. My mother was reared in Logtown, Miss., the town a couple of miles north of Pearlington that was bought out by NASA in the 1960s. So, when I was only about 5 or 6 years of age, we moved to Pearlington to the house where my parents lived until Hurricane Katrina. My parents built their house themselves and have never had a mortgage payment. I can remember them talking about only owing $27 when the house was finished, and that was for the front picture window in the living room. The house and property was paid for with funds that they received from the sale of their house in Logtown to the government. Now, they have to start over.This area is the only place my mother has ever known. She has never traveled and has never lived anyplace else. My father moved here when they were married in June 1958. My mother almost died about five years ago from complications of colon cancer. I was told she would never leave the hospital. She was in intensive care for six weeks and in the hospital for a total of 12 weeks. She came home the day before Thanksgiving in 2000. She now takes care of my father, who is chronically ill. He has been ill for approximately 12 years, and in the last couple of years things have steadily gone downhill. As of today, my father has still not seen their home since Hurricane Katrina. My mother saw their home for the first time last Monday, when my daughter drove her down to see it. My parents had evacuated to Stennis Space Center during the storm ,and my father had been transferred to a hospital in Louisiana. From there, they transferred him to a nursing home in Hattiesburg, Miss. The nursing home has been very generous and gave them a private room so my mother could stay with him. During all of this, it has been difficult for my mother to take care of getting any help. She struggles every day and to date, has not secured a place to live when they leave from the nursing home, as they are only there on a temporary basis so my father can gain some strength, as he has not even been able to walk. Their home still stands, but everything is lost in it. The house will have to be torn down. We have not even been able to get in and try to salvage anything from their home. They lost everything. My father’s truck sits in the front yard. Yet, with all the destruction, we are grateful that everyone in our immediate family is safe. I was truly touched when I read of the Roaring Fork Valley adopting Pearlington. It is truly a small, poor town, but it is home to all of the people who live or lived there. My parents want to go back and rebuild there, although my children do not want them to. But, as I said earlier that is their home, the only place they have ever known in their married life together and the only place my mother has ever known. I have not been able to help my parents because I too was in the storm. I rode it out in Biloxi, Miss., just a couple of blocks off the beach. I stayed with a friend at his house. We had at least 5 feet of water in the house. Thank the Lord for second stories. We watched houses float by, furniture float by, and all sorts of debris float down the street. When we were able to get out of the house after the water receded, there was nothing but destruction all around us. We had lost our vehicles, and he had lost his home, but we were safe. During the storm, when my friend pushed the plywood from the second-story window, in case we had to get out, I saw his neighbor across the street, holding onto the porch post and screaming and signaling for help. He survived. This has been the most devastating experience I have ever encountered. But my concern is not for myself, but for my parents and for the many others who were left homeless on limited incomes; and to see that there are people out there who are reaching out, it gives me hope for them. So, it is with my most heartfelt thanks that I am writing to say, THANK YOU for helping my hometown community of Pearlington.My parents are Lloyd and Gloria (Diggie) Dunaway. My brother, L.J., lives with them.Virginia AmackerBiloxi, Miss.