Tom and Susan live a half-mile from the ocean in Gulfport, Mississippi. When Hurricane Katrina hit, Susan traveled north to be with their son and daughter-in-law. Tom decided to stay home and tough it out. "I felt like I wanted to be there to do what I could to protect my home." It happened that his neighborhood is slightly elevated compared to surrounding areas, so when the hurricane came ashore, the damage to his home was not extensive. "I sat near the northwest side of my house and watched what happened all around me." After the storm passed, Gulfport looked like war zone. In some areas, all landmarks simply disappeared--trees leveled, homes and stores totally disappeared, leaving nothing but concrete slabs. Without electricity and phone service, survivors were cut off from the rest of the world. "You find out what really matters in a time like that. It was like life fifty years ago when people helped each other out. If you needed something, someone nearby would give it to you. And you did the same for them."
The beachfront areas are still devastated and closed to traffic. Thousands of people have still not returned to the area. Some of them have nothing to come back to. Susan said there are no bookstores. "Can you imagine not having a bookstore?" Tom has been struck by the resiliency of the human spirit. And how some people are changed and others are not. "You can tell a difference between seven days after the hurricane and 48 days later. Some people who pitched in help at first have gone back to their selfish ways."
That's to be expected. Massive catastrophes affect each of us in different ways. Tom said he no longer cares about watching TV. It just doesn't matter. "When you go through a hurricane like this, you realize how precious life is." Then he added these words. "We feel so blessed." And as if to emphasize it, he repeated it. "All of us feel so blessed."
Some would think that unusual after such enormous devastation. Homes can be rebuilt and the debris will eventually be cleared away. But life cannot be replaced. If you are alive, you are blessed indeed.
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