Lessons learned in Pearlington | AspenTimes.com
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Lessons learned in Pearlington

Dear Editor:I recently returned from Pearlington, Miss., where I had an incredible experience. I journeyed to Pearlington with a group of students from Aspen High School as part of the Experiential Education program. The whole experience was a very meaningful one that I will remember forever. I feel as though I am a better person having gone to Pearlington, observed what happened there, and had the opportunity to help the community. I was assigned to work with one family, helping to paint their house. I listened to their stories and could not believe what they endured. Even though they lost everything, they still had a positive attitude and are truly great people. They have so little, yet they shared with us everything that they have. They even cooked for us!We were very fortunate to have stayed in a very nice location in the old elementary school. We slept in what was the library, on bunk beds. Since the storm, it has not been used as a school, but rather as a hub for the volunteers and a resource center for the local community. The gymnasium was turned into a warehouse full of food, medicine and tools. There was running water for showers and laundry. We used bottled and canned water for drinking. The weather was never too hot and there were not many bugs. The sun was always shining; we were very lucky to have such great conditions.Initially, I could not understand why the citizens of Pearlington did not evacuate when they knew the storm was coming. I reevaluated, however, when Tom Dalessadri asked our group if there was a giant snow storm heading for Aspen, would we evacuate? Almost all of us agreed we would not leave. Snow storms are commonplace and the town is well equipped to handle the snow. Yet an excessive amount of snow could easily keep us locked us in our houses and take out all the power. This would leave us holed up inside freezing cold homes. The same applies for Pearlington residents; they lived through and survived so many hurricanes previous to Katrina that they did not fear the storm enough to leave their homes.We also had the opportunity to visit with John Georges, whose family relocated to Aspen for the year after Katrina paralyzed their hometown of New Orleans. He spoke to us about the process of rebuilding the city and brought us to his former home in Mississippi. There was no sign of a house, just some stilts, a mailbox and a beaten up golf cart. I could not believe the destruction one storm caused. Thirty feet of water lifted up his house and moved it into his neighbor’s yard. There are still trees filled with objects from people’s homes, and boats lay on top of cars left behind. The destruction is truly mind boggling!After 18 months, there is still so much work to be done, and I recommend people go to Mississippi or help in any way they can. We went to give and yet we got so much more by being there, meeting the people and helping them rebuild their homes.Robert FranklinSophomore, Aspen High School


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