Many Ole Miss students went home for Christmas break, but for those affected by Hurricane Katrina, the holidays just weren’t the same.
Chris Williams, a sophomore business administration major from Bay St. Louis, described being home as “depressing.”
“Half the people I know have moved out or they had to stay at school because their houses are destroyed,” he said. “No matter where you go, you see somebody who has lost everything. Everybody has a story to tell worse than the one before. Their houses are gutted, or they’re living in cheap little FEMA trailers.”
The Mississippi Coast doesn’t look much better than it did right after the hurricane, Williams said.
“All the main roads are cleared, but personal property still hasn’t moved,” he said. “Some people who live farther out still haven’t even gotten power back.”
Amber Williams, a pharmacy student from Wiggins, said the thing that stood out the most in her memory was how weird it felt driving into her town.
“We were driving down Hwy. 90 and you couldn’t even tell where you were,” she said. “It was so strange to be on a road you’ve been on hundreds of times your whole life and not even recognize it.”
She said she thinks the coast looks better, but said there is still a long way to go “before it is anywhere close to normal.”
Williams’ mother has been sleeping on an air mattress since Katrina because of damage to her bedroom, and her father lost his job at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino.
“He was going to be out of a job, so he had to transfer out to Las Vegas,” Williams said. “We don’t get to see him much, but we did get to see him for a few days during Christmas for the first time since the beginning of September.”
Williams said her grandparents totally lost their home in the hurricane.
“We always have a huge Christmas at their house,” she said. “This year, because of the loss, we couldn’t get everyone together, so it was different.”
Mary Catherine Boehmer, a junior linguistics major from Biloxi, also said seeing the coast was depressing.
“It looks about the same as it did in September when I went home,” she said. “A few more houses are bulldozed and some of the debris is cleaned up, but it still doesn’t look much better.”
Boehmer said her family’s Christmas celebration was relocated to Hattiesburg, where her brother lives.
“My parents just couldn’t take spending Christmas in the FEMA trailer they are living in, seeing everything all torn up,” she said.
Lauren Rhodes went home to the coast as well. She said her winter holiday was “different.”
“We were lucky and did get to spend Christmas together,” the graduate student from Ocean Springs said. “We are displaced; living in FEMA trailers in Folsom, La.”
“It doesn’t look any better to me,” she said. “Some of the public property that was destroyed has been removed, but private property is still everywhere. Most people just haven’t been able to or can’t afford to do anything with it.”