Katrina Chronicles: The Forgotten Town - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Pearlington, MS 8/28/2006

Katrina Chronicles: The Forgotten Town

By: Marsha Thompson
      marsha@wlbt.net

The world watched as rescuers flooded the Gulf Coast and New Orleans days after Katrina. But a tiny corner of southwest Mississippi was overshadowed. Forgotten.

It's an idyllic setting. The Pearl River meanders through reeds to the Gulf of Mexico. A Sea Two Captain gave us a ride up the river to see the destruction that remains on the banks. The landscape is startling. "It's all mangled." A storm surge of unprecedented heights roared miles inland demolishing everything in it's path.  John Ludwig described the storm surge, "It got almost 28-30 feet. If you notice there's a water mark on the bridge masters house way up there. That's incredible. Nobody's seen nothing like this before."

Katrina's bullseye, Pearlington. A dot on the map, 8 miles from the Gulf, 40 from New Orleans. For 135 years a Baptist church in the poorest part of Pearlington stood the test of time. It's where the people would come to pray but Katrina stripped the heart and soul out of the church and it's community."

Area residents told us, Pearlington, Waveland we got the worse, got the eye. Some too poor or too stubborn refused to leaves their homes. Pastor Samuel Burton stayed behind during the storm and felt the water rising around him. " I fell in that water. It was coming in like out there in the ocean. You know how you get behind the ski boat, that water was rolling. Good God rolling." The 87- year old Pastor, his faithful pet Lucky and others were swept away by a wall of water. "You were washed away?" "Yeah a whole block. I wound up in that tree back there. "Snakes, they began to crawl around my arm. Moccasins going across my legs, in that tree.

100 MPH winds, and violent waters for hours the elderly Pastor desperately held on. He now refers to the tree that he clung to for survival, the tree of life? Surrounded by death and destruction Pearlington remained overlooked after Katrina. 68 year old Edward Burnette said" They didn't know we was on the map. It's a lot of people found Pearlington just driving through they hadn't mentioned it in the news." Residents were left to fend for themselves for weeks. Billy Ray Raine told us, "We didn't have nothing, we slept in tents no water or nothing. Others remain thankfor for the little they have now like Nolan Vince, "We came a long way, we really have been blessed thank you Jesus." Resources were sent to more populous areas of the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. Bitter memories for survivors. 

 Time stood still for months in Pearlington and in a way still does.  According to Burnette, "It's not like it used to be will it ever be the same. People moved out, new people coming in." The tiny Bayou town on the Pearl River remains scarred.  Nolan reflects on current times, "It's scarred. Yeah, but we're trying to rebuild. Everybody is pulling together, showing love. We're working as a team."  Everyone here agrees, the lifeblood of Pearlington depends on common bonds, resiliency. But it's bleak.  There are few jobs, little or no housing, only meager government issued checks for most.  Burnette shook his head and told us "I reckon you can build back..but some is and some ain't. I ain't going now where, this is it for me."

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