Upstate Friends Helped Hurricane Katrina Survivor Cope

This weekend marks the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Its victims are remembering the storm’s terrible destructive power along the Gulf Coast.

More than 1800 lives were lost, damage exceeded $100 billion, and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced from their homes.

On September 2, 2005, three days after the storm, Seven on Your Side photojournalist Jason Parker and I followed an Upstate family as they delivered supplies to hard-hit friends in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, near Biloxi.

In Ocean Springs, the sight of the destruction left by Katrina was staggering.

Kim and Jack Williams lived in a house they say was worth $400,000. When they took us to their address, the home was gone. Only a concrete slab and splintered building materials remained.

I asked Jack Williams that day, “Have you thought to yourself, ‘what if we had stayed?’”

“Yeah. I don’t know. I’m a pretty tough old nut, but I might not have made it out of this one,” replied Jack.

Earlier this month, via telephone, I spoke to Jack for the first time in ten years.

He recounted that he had planned to stay at his home and ride out the storm as it hit on August 29, 2005. As the water rose, he decided to get out while he could.

“I thought we were going to be safe,” recalls Jack now. “I didn’t think the water would have that kind of power.”

“We put all of our belongings and things that we cared so much about up in the attic so they wouldn’t be damaged. Well, you know how that happened. The whole house, everything, was gone. There was nothing left but a slab.”

There wasn’t much to salvage, just a few scattered items.

“That makes me angry at that storm,” Jack said in the telephone interview. “To lose my house, that’s one thing. But it took away all those memories, pictures and things that we had. That, I don’t like.”

The Williams’s plight was made easier by their friends Jim and Linda Brown of Inman. They made an eight-hour drive from the Upstate in an SUV loaded with supplies from their church.

“We couldn’t just sit there and not do anything,” said Linda in 2005. “I know this is just like a drop in the bucket, but it’s something.”

“I just wanted to let them know that somebody loved them,” said Jim Brown (Jim passed away in 2013).

Jack Williams says though Hurricane Katrina took his house, the experience made him a smarter and better man.

“If a storm of that magnitude gets out in the Gulf, I’m leaving. I’m not going to fight it… It just makes each day more important to me. I try not to waste a day. I probably have, but I really try not to waste a moment of my life anymore.”

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