Sunday, May 13, 2007
One question frequently pops up from visitors to the Mississippi Gulf Coast after all the scars of Hurricane Katrina's destruction is seen: Why do you stay? It is hard to imagine how beautiful the place I call home used to be. There are scars of buildings, homes, and wildlife habitat all around. But the scars are being healed. As with all things, it will take time.
The wildlife habitat was the first thing to recover. The multitude of birds, flowers, live oak trees, and other flora and fauna are showing an array of creation this year.
I like this picture. The silhouette of the Great Blue Heron is shown along with the silhouette of an osprey nest. The osprey used the same nest last year.
This is one of the reasons I want to live here. The main reason is the people. After Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi Coastal communities pulled together and all of us truly became neighbors. I think the proudest moments were in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. When organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, Chabad, and so many others came in, neighbors refused help and pointed them to other neighbors who were in more dire straits. They would say so and so needs more help than I do and would point out the houses to go to.
If a neighbor needed candles, neighbors shared. If a neighbor needed water, neighbors shared. If a neighbor needed food, it was shared. Neighbors looked out for one another on each street and potential looters were watched until they left the area.
There were no barriers of skin color, religion, or politics. We were all neighbors stretching 66 miles from Moss Point to Lakeshore.
The sense of community was strong before Hurricane Katrina ravaged my hometown of Gulfport. Katrina just made the sense of community stronger. Our synagogue was heavily damaged and is too costly to repair. A Methodist church has been letting us use a meeting hall for our services. Hopefully, by this time next year our new shul will have been built.
Many of our congregants homes were destroyed or heavily damaged. Many Jewish groups such as The Jewish Center, Hillel, United Jewish Communities are helping us to rebuild our homes, our shul, and our lives.
Community is what has kept me here for 38 years, community will keep here for a while longer. But Israel beckons.