17 years later, better than before

Published 3:20 pm Saturday, September 3, 2022

By Jan Miller Penton

It has been seventeen years since that August day when the world changed for so many. The monster storm named Katrina barreled into the our lives and left destruction in its wake. Everyone who was of any age in South Mississippi and Louisiana when the storm winds subsided has a Katrina story, and though the years have passed the memories remain.

Mike and I decided to take a ride to the Mississippi Gulf Coast after church yesterday to try out The Thorny Oyster, the lovely restaurant at The Pearl Hotel. Our window seat had a fabulous view of passersby with the harbor beyond engulfed in beautiful, blue skies. We perused the somewhat limited menu and decided on shrimp and grits that turned out to be a good choice.

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After brunch the cool little shops caught our attention. The variety of gift items, souvenirs, and clothing with a beachy vibe are always interesting. We poked around relaxing and enjoying our day and even ran into my little brother, Max, and his family out and about doing much the same thing.

It was getting later in the afternoon when we decided to take a ride down the beach. I love to take photographs, and Mike stopped the car for me to jump out and get the right angle on a picture or two. Actually, it may have been quite a few, but I captured some absolutely gorgeous scenes. I was in stealth mode getting a shot of pelicans lounging around on an old pier, but I was able to get quite close. The sea oats always provide interest against the ever-changing sky, and of course the gulf waters.

I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon, and was on the ride home when it hit me. There was barely a trace of the enormous devastation that literally wiped out so much of the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Hurricane winds, 28-foot storm surge, and 55-foot sea waves left 236 people dead, 67 missing, and billions of dollars in damages.

The resilient and proud people of my home state gritted their teeth and went to work building back better than ever. There were many, many people who came to lend a hand in the efforts to rebuild, but I count the grit and determination of my Mississippi brothers and sisters as one of the main components for the comeback.

Mississippi has, as many people say, a church on almost every corner. I believe the strong faith of my Mississippi brethren gave them the will to keep getting up everyday when things looked so grim. Many organizations and churches sent numerous teams to help with cleanup also.

The scars are growing smaller, but the memories remain of a time when the best and worst of humanity were evident. The scammers scammed and the generous gave. I will ever be proud of how my beautiful Mississippi Coast rose to the challenge and came back stronger and better than before.