A Town's Recovery, Not Yet Forgotten - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Waveland 08/29/06

A Town's Recovery, Not Yet Forgotten

By Howard Ballou

While many Gulf Coast residents evacuated as Hurricane Katrina approached a year ago, most first responders did not have that option. They stayed behind to help others in the face of tremendous danger. In Waveland, Katrina's ground zero, some say a miracle occurred that day.

"There's not too many days that go by that you don't think about it...have nightmares, but it's all good. We all made it." Waveland Police Chief James Varnell says he and his department have come a long way since Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city. Helping hands from the public and private sector have given the department new cars and some temporary shelter to work out of.

Ten officers quit and Chief Varnell says while crime is pretty much the way it was before Katrina, there have been increases. "...domestics have gone up a whole lot; drugs, of course," said Chief Varnell. 

The old Waveland Police Department building has been torn down and moved away. There's a trailer replacing it for now, but Chief Varnell says they won't rebuild here.  They'll rebuild somewhere else.  One thing will remain, however, and the bush that saved 14 lives.

"..it's just a reminder of how lucky we were, you know," he said.  Varnell and 13 of his officers held onto the bush for dear life as Katrina's surge tried to rip them away. That's why the chief has asked a horticulture expert to root clippings from the bush and distribute them to all the officers who are alive today because it was there.

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