Remembering Katrina in Biloxi

Remembering Katrina in Biloxi

"This is our tsunami."
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August 29, 2005 a storm ravaged the Gulf Coast, bringing an end to the most prosperous time in Biloxi’s history. Casinos, hotels, businesses and residences alike were laid to waste by the historic and unforgiving Hurricane Katrina.

At the time, my grandfather was Mayor of Biloxi. He had seen Biloxi out of the red and into the black, as businesses and commerce boomed within our small, coastal city. Because of our proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, Biloxi is no stranger to hurricanes. Many land on her beaches and whip their wind until they slowly dissipate. In 1969, Hurricane Camille made landfall and ravaged the Gulf Coast. She became the standard for comparison for all storms to come.

Being that he lived through Hurricane Camille, my grandfather, Mayor Holloway, believed nothing could be as catastrophic as her. However, after an interview with Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel, he knew that would not be the case. Mr. Cantore advised my grandfather take one last look at his city, because after Katrina, it would never be the same.

Before Katrina was scheduled to arrive, my grandfather and I went to fill his truck up with gas, just as we did before any other hurricane. My family never evacuated, because my grandfather needed to be there for his city before, during and after. I remember sitting in his truck listening to the radio. The broadcaster predicted Hurricane Katrina would devastate the Coast. More than Hurricane Camille, even. Such an idea was unfathomable to me. When my grandpa returned from paying the clerk, I voiced my doubt to him.

“Do you think it’s going to be that bad, pawpaw?” To which he replied, “I’m afraid so.”

Once the tank was full, he and I drove down the beach one last time. I attempted to take mental pictures of the city I loved so much. The beautiful homes on the beach, historical landmarks, and the casinos lining highway 90. My grandpa was quiet and pensive throughout our drive. I could sense his anxiety, but I was not sure how to express my concern to him. I was only 10, after all. Eventually our drive concluded. We returned home to pick up the rest of our family so that we could go to city hall, where we were going to weather the storm.

That night we slept on cots in the city council room as we anticipated Katrina’s arrival. She came ashore during the high tide around 6:30 the next morning. Feeder bands pelted rain while simultaneously whipping wind like a merciless whip around the marble building. The sounds of that storm are forever etched into my brain. Not long after Katrina’s landfall, the water started rising and did not stop. Shrimp boats were floating down the street. Entire structures were washed away with ease as Katrina made her way through the Gulf Coast. The storm surge reached 30 feet. “This is our tsunami,” said my grandpa.

Katrina was 17 hours of hell, leaving nothing by destruction in her wake. An estimated 90 percent of infrastructure was lost during her reign of terror. Families lost their homes and all of it’s contents. Some died in their homes, because no one expected Katrina to be as bad as she was.

The most amazing thing to me was everyones willingness to help: strangers, friends, and disaster relief workers alike. Storm waters have the ability to wash away a lot, but they are unable to wash away our heritage and pride. Even those who had lost everything were helping their neighbors or friends or family, because that’s what coasties do.

Cover Image Credit: McClatchyDC

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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The College Experience

A series telling the true experiences of modern day college students.

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Everyone tells you to prepare for the best years of your life.

They tell you to prepare for all of the new challenges and new opportunities.

They say that you will meet your future people in college.

What they don't tell you is how much it will hurt.

Seeing old friends disappear because you are no longer home.

Watching your grades fall because the class is too difficult to pass.

Hearing and witnessing your family struggle and you aren't able to be with them.

Seeing all of the adventures that others are going on while you are stuck in your dorm room with the same stack of papers you have been trying to finish for three days now.

They don't tell you how difficult the transition will be.

They especially don't tell you how hard it is to live with someone.

The best of friends can live together and then grow to hate each other.

Complete strangers will move in and never speak.

You'll find friends that are simply just your "writing friend" or "band friend".

Many of the labels from high school can sometimes stick around.

If you're not out drinking or clubbing, then people think you don't have a life.

College is great, but don't think that it will be easy.

You have to make things easy in order for things to happen.

You can't just go around doing whatever and expect things to work out.

It takes time and it takes commitment to succeed in life, and in college.

The best way to deal with it all, find someone!

Find someone that you can get coffee with and watch sports with.

Find someone to eat dinner and lunch with.

Find someone to study religion and math before the next test.

Find someone!

Find your someone, a friend or someone special, to help you make it through everything that life throws at you.

If I had that someone I might have been better off my first year.

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