Around 10 a.m. Tuesday, I climbed on board an RC-26 with a crew of five, two pilots, two mission system operators, and a wing executive officer, all from the 186th Air National Guard Unit of Meridian, Miss.
First, we flew to Waveland, MS to see lots littered with debris and lumber washed up into the treeline. That's all that remained of many homes. The supports from a pier now stretch empty into the air.
Then on to Bay St. Louis, MS where large concrete slabs were all that remained of the beautiful houses that had once lined the water. Soon, we came across the roof of someone's home now washed up onto railroad tracks.
Along the Jordan River we found the home of Mary Rea Thomson where I spent the night less than three months ago. Somehow, the house was still standing, but the damage was severe.
A little further on is downtown Bay St. Louis, MS, but not the way you would have remembered it. The railway spanning the bay is gone. So is the bridge, but the drawbridge remains.
In Pass Christian, floating debris has washed up into the harbor. Thirty-foot sailboats have been picked up by the water and thrown back into the city itself. In Long Beach the line of debris is several blocks from the beach and semi-trailers have been tossed about like toys.
At the Combat Readiness Training Center in Gulfport, 6,000 Mississippi National Guard members have set up camp in a relief mission.
In Biloxi, casinos were washed onto land. The Hard Rock Hotel stood, but the casino was decimated and McElroy's Seafood Restaurant was gone.
Across Lake Ponchartrain into New Orleans, Interstate 10 lies half submerged below water, and the Superdome shows its scars, but the 17th Street canal has been shored, and the water is pumping back into the Gulf, and the French Quarter still stands.