Her name is Angel.
She is my niece, one of the 14 children born to my brother Curtis and his wife, Jessie, a child of Bay St. Louis, who has grown into a beautiful young woman, married and living now in Colorado. And like so many thousands upon thousands of those of us who left the Mississippi Gulf Coast to seek careers and lives elsewhere, Angel’s heart and thoughts are back in the place where her life began.
The Bay St. Louis she and so many of us knew no longer exists. After Katrina unleashed her angry winds and unholy water, our hometown lives only in the memory of what was—and no longer what is. But even the worst natural disaster in our history can’t destroy those memories that bind us to our past.
“My parents’ house, where they have lived for over 40 years, is gone,“ Angel wrote when she was able to gather critical information regarding her family. “It was home to Curtis and Jessie and their 14 children. Momma and Daddy were the only ones left in that big two-story house after all of us had moved out and moved on. I will never forget, though, that whenever I made it home to the Bay, it was my home base.
“I have been thinking about all the many memories that house held. The homecomings for new babies, including myself; the family dinners; Christmas mornings; even a wedding that will never be forgotten. I remember when Daddy closed the entry to the small closet under the stairs, the closet that served as our clubhouse for so many years, with a bookshelf that he handcrafted and finished with care. We threw a newspaper in before he closed the opening in case we ever got back into the staircase locker.
“My sister Robin, who dreamed of owning a home for so long, lost hers this week. Her husband, Terry, had to leave his truck at North Bay Elementary and walk into Cedar Point. When he arrived, there was nothing to see but devastation. All that is left of her immaculate dwelling is a slab with a few squares of ceramic tile clinging to the cement, refusing to budge. He told my sister he had a souvenir for her from the house. She is waiting for his return to Foley, Ala., to find out what he might have saved.”
The homes of her brothers Curt and Jess and Scott and her sister Tammy were brutally damaged and how much of each can be saved is an open question. The condition of Angel’s other brothers’ homes is unknown, but they are all safe.
“I can only thank God that, although homes have been destroyed and mementoes lost forever, my family endures,” Angel continued. “Pictures can be copied, furniture can be replaced and homes can be rebuilt—but lives cannot be reclaimed once lost. As I sit here, my son is asleep and the weather is beautiful and it makes me feel guilty. Guilty about the fact that I have no fear for the safety of my family. I know exactly where my next meal is coming from. My little home is safe along with all of my possessions. I want to hug my momma and daddy. I want to see my brothers and sister and all of their children. As bad as things are in Mississippi there is no place on Earth I would rather be at this moment.”
That is the voice of an Angel. A voice that speaks for so many of us.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers