Ten years after the iconic storm that devastated the Gulf Coast, the community is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Paul Walters, with the Mississippi Gulf Coast Habitat for Humanity, said, “We’ve recovered a lot on the outside, you know, a lot of buildings have been rebuilt but a lot haven’t. Some people have moved on, some couldn’t afford to stay or just, for different reasons, didn’t stick around.”
A group of organizations in Biloxi wanted to bring the community together and reflect on the impact Katrina had on the Coast. They wanted people to share their personal stories in a more interactive way, hoping to get everyone up on their feet. Jennifer Crosslin, with the Steps Coalition, said, “It gets people moving around instead of just sitting at their seats and waiting to be spoken to. This is an opportunity for them to get up and write their stories but maybe talk to the person next to them and interact with, you know, as they’re reading the exhibit and so it’s a chance for communities to speak to one another and interact with each other and bond over the commemoration.”
One way to share stories is the “Pillar of Thanks”. People take a marker and write down the name of an individual or organization that helped them out during the storm. “Whether it was giving you 100 bucks or, you know, a tank of gas or what it may be. People need to survive and so, we wanted to make sure we lift up and recognize them and this is an opportunity for people to say thank you,” said Crosslin.
For some, like Paul Walters, who have helped build over 750 homes post-Katrina, he understands how far the community has come, but also how we can continue to recover ten years later. “It’s been an honor to work on the Coast, serving with Habitat and getting to hear people’s stories. My family was very much spared from it, but I know other people who lost everything, so I’m thankful I had a part in rebuilding the Coast.”
Community members were invited to bring their favorite dishes as part of the pot luck dinner at the event. “Resilience and Recovery” was held at the Biloxi Civic Center and was free and open to the public.