Hope Rises Above the Ruins

Gulfport resident Patty Bowering has been working to clean her house for several weeks now, but the progress is slow, to say the least. You can see the line marking how high water got inside.

"The wind pushed the water up and all of your belongings floated," said Bowering. "And there was mud after the water went back down and you try to salvage what you can."

Her story: her neighborhood is pretty much like everyone else's on the Mississippi Coast. It's a story of total devastation.

As amazing as what was destroyed by the storm was what has survived. Most of the trees are still standing. These trees survived Hurricane Camille. Now they've survived Katrina, and they may be part of a foundation for starting over in many of these neighborhoods.

On that foundation, the Mississippi Renewal Forum will build. This group of people from all over the state are trying to decide exactly how it will recover from Katrina. Members are meeting in Biloxi for the next several days to do it. The committee is headed by former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale.

"There's going to be another hurricane. I've got news for you. I don't know if it's next week, next month, next year, in five years, 20 years or a hundred years, but it's coming," Barksdale said. "And if we don't act now to set up a structure that is mindful of that, woe on us."

But there is optimism here that that will indeed take place, that the Mississippi coast will come back, bigger and better than it was before the storm.

It's an optimism that's palpable, much more so that when we traveled to New Orleans a week ago. It's an optimism shared by those we spoke with in this Gulfport neighborhood, an optimism you can sense in Patty Bowering.

"It's going to take a long time because the cleanup is taking a long time," Bowering said. "But hopefully, I can come back and my neighbors can come back and we can rebuild our city."

There is certainly much work to do, but you get the sense that the people here are ready to do it. Frankly, they're already doing it.


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