Saturday, October 29, 2005

And this'll be today's last photo. It was great, this Halloween fest, just two months after this town was leveled. My heart ached everywhere I went on the coast after the storm, but nowhere worse than the Pass. It was thrilling to see this town scratch and claw its way back to almost zero. Well, I guess they're a long way from that, but there was nothing hollow about their desire to have some fun. It was more than earned, it was a needed infusion of hope. That's why I leave you today with this photo, of the beach in the Pass. This spot was under at least 35 feet of water during the storm. Houses, cars, people floated over it on their way back to the sea, from where all life begins. This little growth, this burst of green on the stark stretch of white sand and debris represents the end of a cycle of disbelief and skepticism for me. Life goes on.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Ah, to be a kid.
This photo by Joshua Norman

And the award for one of the best costume pairs I've ever seen goes to Jayme (the bottled water) and Rebecca (the MRE). FYI, Rebecca is No. 13, the vegetable tortellini.
This photo by Joshua Norman

If it weren't for the mountain of debris in the background, you might not know the eye of one of the worst hurricanes in modern history passed over this spot.
This photo by Joshua Norman

There she is, Pass Christian native and Good Morning America host Robin Roberts. I can't imagine where Mississippi would be without its native sons and daughters. Christ, do you think anyone in the NFL would've even known Katrina leveled this part of the Gulf Coast if Brett Farve's boyhood home in Kiln had not been flattened? Do you think Dubya would've made 8 trips here if the maginficent Haley Barbour were not our governor? Do you think Good Morning America would have bothered with this teeny, devastated town, were it not for Robin? Shoot, how many of you would have known about this place and what happened had you not stumbled across our blog? I still get riled up a bit about how much more attention New Orleans got/is getting. I still hear stories of people asking whether or not Mississippi was even affected by KAtrina, of some companies considering anything outside of a 40-mile radius of New Orleans not in a Hurricane-affected area. Tell that to the kids sleeping in tents on the beach going to school in mobile homes and having to celebrate Halloween two days early without the trick-or-treating because their whole neighborhood was leveled and there are literally no doorbells to ring. Sorry, had to let that one out.
This photo by Joshua Norman

That's Thomas in the white shirt. I met him about three days after the storm, sifting through the rubble next to the slab that was his house. He's in a FEMA trailer now. I wrote a story about him desperately searching for childhood keepsakes of his daughter, Evelyn. Thomas's parents had lost all his childhood keepsakes to Hurricane Camille, and he was determined to not let Katrina do the same thing for his daughter. He stumbled across a DVD with all his daughter's baby videos on it. He was also looking for SpongeBob stuff, because she is a bit of a SpongeBob freak, as is evident by her costume choice. He managed to salvage a blanket and a few trinhkets. Thomas drove home for me for the first time the scope of personal loss from the hurricane. It was a bit of a wonderful circle seeing him again somewhere far away from the morning I found him dripping with sweat and digging through muck while a mixture of pain and disbelief rolled down his face with his tears. It was awkward too, I have to admit.
This photo by Joshua Norman

This image is not relevant to any of the others. It's of a gun in the War Memorial Park in which the Pass party took place. It was one of the few things in the park, including several granite structures, that was not knocked over by the surge. That photo from earlier in the blog of the Camille Memorial sits about 30 feet away.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Even Rocketman (with owner John) got into the mood.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Watch out Christian Bale, the next generation is ready.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Halloween came back to the Pass today. Being that there are very few neighborhoods to trick-or-treat in, Wal-Mart, Good Morning America, and several local businesses and officials chipped in today to give the Pass's kiddies a taste of what the rest of America's kids are surely taking for granted.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Friday, October 28, 2005

The stupidity of our energy policy is really starting to piss me off. The Department of Energy apparently announced that they want to expand the strategic petroleum reserves from 727 million barrels to somewhere around one billion, making the total days that the reserve would last, given national oil consumption somewhere around the two and a half month mark.
Part of the proposal involves possibly using some salt domes in South Mississippi as storage tanks, then running pipelines, probably through Jackson County, to the Gulf of Mexico. The pipelines would transport oil back and forth and deposit concentrated brine into coastal waters.
Oh yeah, and approximately 30 percent of the American oil supply comes from this area already. Good idea. Lump more essential resource into an area that has a problem with current and future natural disasters.
Economies based on oil are done.
Why won't someone at or near the top get some cajones and force the billions that go into research and development for extending a dying resource, which caused enough problems when it wasn't dying, and redirect it to alternatives?
I'm not even talking about renewables or green energy, though that would be lovely. This isn't a hippie thing. This is a 'substance that fuels every aspect of modern life is on the bad part of the bell curve' thing.

By the way, not that guys at or near the top are reading this, but the machinery and other necessary parts of research and development need something to run on, for lubrication and for other laboratory functions. Do you know what that is? It ain't cherry soda, Baby. It's freaking oil.
Why not squeeze the last drop out of the ground before getting to the point that you need oil in the transition away from oil?

And by the way again, domestic oil prices are affected by rough seas and storms. Oil tankers slow down or avoid rough spots. Diminished supplies over a few days moves that intersection point with the good old demand curve. Way to keep your society fueled by resources that need to be transported over thousands of miles. Oh yeah, resources thousands of miles away and resources negatively impacted by wind. It's a good thing there isn't that much wind on this planet.
Wake up! Damn.
I'm too peeved to edit this.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

About the picture below:
World Shelters is a nonprofit group that specializes in providing these temporary units to people affected by war and disaster all over the world. They brought about 60 of these down to South Mississippi and gave them for free to be used as family living units, supply hangars and emergency clinics.
Not only are they doing good work, the tent design is very smart and very durable. Those PVC skeletons are designed to create the tubular structure when standard FEMA, USAID and UN tarps are connected to them. They have about eight and a half feet of height clearance at the center and are 11 feet wide. They are meant to last for two years in wind, rain and snow.
What's more, World Shelters received praise from USAID and the Buckminster Fuller Institute, an organization that advocates for smart design concepts.

“Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary. The whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing on the edge of the rudder called a trim tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, “Call me Trim Tab.”
-R. Buckminster Fuller

Two employees from a nonprofit called World Shelters showing me one of about 60 tents they set up and gave away in South Mississippi. They are good people doing really good work, and they were super friendly.

A loader feeds a 35-foot high debris fire.

Not only wood fed the five-acre fire north of Gulfport. Along with this exercise bike, I also found fences, mattresses and engine components.

Burning fields north of Gulfport. This is a county vegetation debris-burning site, one of 16 along the Mississippi Coast. At this five-acre pyre alone, over 84,000 cubic yards of trees, branches and shrubs were burned in a single 24-hour period.

Can't keep the Cajuns from partying.

The water line of flood waters in an eastern neighborhood of New Orleans. The writing is from a search and rescue team.

Inside the Shops at Canal Place mall. The town was deserted except for National Guard, cops and utility workers. We walked into this mall, which held a few looted shops. It was silent and weird, except for this security guard playing Beethoven. A proper re-introduction to New Orleans, the party town of lost souls.
After a bit of a hiatus, mkeller is back. And that's the last time I'll refer to myself in the third person, he promises.
It's been a busy couple of months since last we spoke. I'll try to distill out the worthwhile stuff.
I got my first piece published in a national mag. It's in November's Wired, on shelves now. Or you can save the five bucks and just go here:

It's a little piece, but I'm alongside Noah Shachtman of I'll consider it an honor being in the same rag as Shachtman, who has been my military/defense technology go-to source for quite a while now.

On the subject of technology, I'd like to bounce an idea off of you people across the wire. I believe that now is the time to begin implementing a hardened and public wireless infrastructure under the umbrella of national security.
Just as the advent of the Internet heralded a time when every citizen could become a journalist, wireless holds the potential for every place to become a newsroom, press, broadcast and radio station or an emergency management center.
Lets take the initiative to progress and truly capitalize technology expenditures for the marketplace of ideas. Besides the benefits of open access to the Internet with its associated benefits of VoIP, open GPS signal triangulation and others, there is also a benefit to connecting concerned expert users all over the country.
When communications went down here, nobody, not even different first-responder groups, could speak with each other. Emergency operations centers were saved during this forced silence by ham radio operators, who drove in from all over the country to coordinate efforts in the days after the storm.
With a hardened and overlapping wireless network, coordinating activities would be much easier.
The Red Cross knew the importance of this. They brought in a Ford Explorer specially equipped with a satellite uplink and wireless communications equipment to get their field staff linked to people and servers at their headquarters.

I know that we are still battling over whether evolution happened, but I can dream, can't I?

Speaking of cool mobile technology during disasters, here's two examples:

1)Cell on Wheels(COW's)- mobile cellular towers that can be trucked in when your stationary ones fall down, bringing back cell communications more quickly.
One example at

2)Mobile Integrated Geospatial-Intelligence Systems (MIGS)- from your spooky friends at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Humvee-mounted rolling mapping systems complete with earth observing satellite connections, GPS and connectivity to homebase. I used NGA (formerly NIMA) remote sensing products when I was doing some peacekeeping work in Africa. They have amazing stuff and even more amazing capabilities. NGA is at its best when it's helping humanity instead of looking for a guy in a cave.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

In my reporting, here's what I've learned about immigrant workers (and I mean specifically Latino workers)-
1)They do jobs that most Americans don't want to do, for longer than most Americans are willing to work, for less money than most Americans are willing to take.
2)They are mobile. It is easy for a contractor to hire an immigrant worker, put him on a job in Texas for a month and then move him to Mississippi for three. They often come with their own tents too.
3)Contractors like Latino workers especially because of how infrequently they are organized, i.e. unionized. Sometimes, advocacy groups organize them and demand better pay, but the rate of this is not often.
4)Contractors rave about Latino worker's work ethics. They never call in sick. They work tirelessly. And, many of them have a multitude of construction skills and can therefore do multiple jobs.

All that said, there is no doubt in my mind that local people are not getting hired enough. The reasons for that are surely numerous. One is, I'm sure, the low cost of immigrant labor. The fact is that this country could not survive, this society could not exist the way it does, without the millions of undocumented workers doing our dirty work. The cost to output ratio would be too lopsided without them, and we don't have a system in place to change that right now.
Because of this, and because of the continued threat of immigration authorities, and because of the innumerable unfair laws the government has in place that protect contractors hiring illegal workers but not the illegal workers themselves, the rate of abuse is sickening.
I have heard dozens of stories since the storm started of workers being asked to come here for a job with the promise of housing, working for a week and then literally being left in the street. I've heard stories of workers being promised a paycheck at the end of the day, only to find the contractor threatening to call immigration if they persist in asking for it. The list goes on too.
How do we solve this? I have no frickin' idea. All I know is, it's an interesting and messed up situation.
Our society needs immigrant workers, yet we refuse to treat them fairly. I suppose this system has gone back millenia. The Irish and Italians were treated this way upon their arrival here at the turn of the last century.
Africans are treated this way in Europe today. I suppose it will just be a question of time before Latinos finally infiltrate the upper levels of our society and put a halt to this way of life for their people.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

renewal forum

For those of you who may not be following the news too closely down here, the plans of the Mississippi Renewal Forum were presented to the public today.
The Forum is basically a commission set up by Gov. Barbour with a bunch of big-wigs from Mississippi to make recommendations and create plans of all kinds and sizes to rebuild this part of the Gulf Coast. For the last week, 100s of architects and urban planners from across the country have been giving presentations on how to make the Coast better.
Some of the more interesting ideas involve getting rid of the CSX railroad tracks that run east-west just four blocks from the beach (and which probably saved the SunHerald building and yours truly from certain doom) in all three southern counties and making the whole area more walkable and bikeable.
Because I cover the town of Long Beach, I can only really comment on specific stuff that’s proposed there. As can be seen in the photos above, the slate has been wiped clean.
Anyways, that’s the boiled down summation of what’s going on.
It’s fascinating and a grand plan. The problem is, most obviously, the money. Everybody wants all this nice stuff: broad avenues, more trees, parks, central commercial districts. Basically, it’s everything that the coast was not before the storm. Problem is, it’s expensive as all hell. And, with no tax base to work from, it’ll all have to be done on a borrowed dime.
Another thing that concerns me is that here haven’t been too many minorities involved in these discussions about how to redo things. Actually, the general socio-economic makeup of these meetings on redoing the whole thing has generally been the same few brackets too. (I’ll let you guess what brackets those are.)
Anyways, if you get more time and want to look through the various proposals of the various towns, check out

An architect's proposed re-rendering of downtown Long Beach. Those circles are supposed to represent five minute walks.
This photo courtesy of Mississippi Renewal Forum

Arial view of downtown Long Beach. That's Kmart's parking lot.
This photo courtesy of Mississippi Renewal Forum

Same shot as before, just with storm damage indicated. Red and pink buidlings were either wiped out or severely damaged. Yellow ones rather damaged. Black ones are fine.
This photo courtesy of Mississippi Renewal Forum

This is a rendering of downtown Long Beach's structures pre-Katrina. Jeff Davis Ave is the fourth street from the left with the concentration of bigger buildings around it. It was the hub of Long Beach. City Hall is that L-shaped building.
This photo courtesy of Mississippi Renewal Forum

That's Long Beach's coast looking north from Jeff Davis Avenue. St. Thomas is the blue roof close to the beach. USM is just on the far side of it. Chappy's (now a slab) was just on the near side of it.
This photo courtesy of Mississippi Renewal Forum

Monday, October 17, 2005

No photos, but I have good news. I got off of Keller's floor. Halellujah!
More on that later. First, what I consider to be the most interesting news out of here lately:
The new FEMA flood elevation level for buildings on the coast - i.e. the minimum height a homeowner or business must build foundation and/or pilons up to in order to be considered eligible for insurance - is going to be 24 feet off the ground. Fuck me.
At the Mississippi Renewal Forum, where hundreds of architects have come to tell us how to rebuild the Gulf Coast, this is creating all kinds of problems for urban planners coming up with ideas for affordable housing.
"It's going to cost $150,000 just to build to where you can begin the first floor," one architect said on the radio the other day.
Considering how many poor neighborhoods were wiped out completely, it's very safe to say the Gulf Coast will change dramatically.
Speaking of change, life is starting to move on for yours truly. I got a place near where one of my favorite bars used to be. So, hopefully it'll come back before I leave there too.
I got lucky, really lucky, in finding a place. About two weeks after the storm I went to at least a dozen apartment complexes that were only slightly damaged and every one had a waiting list that was already 80-100 long. I guess I just got to this place quickly enough. Thank goodness.
As I am moving, I sort of have begun to realize how much stuff I have. I know I don't have as many as most, but I've got more than many. Considering this will be my fourth move this year, and my fifth may come still yet, I've about had it with all my stuff.
These moves always makes me think of the George Carlin bit on stuff----
Actually this is just a place for my stuff, ya know? That's all, a little place for my stuff. That's all I want, that's all you need in life, is a little place for your stuff, ya know? I can see it on your table, everybody's got a little place for their stuff. This is my stuff, that's your stuff, that'll be his stuff over there. That's all you need in life, a little place for your stuff. That's all your house is: a place to keep your stuff. If you didn't have so much stuff, you wouldn't need a house. You could just walk around all the time.A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you're taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody's got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn't want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you're saving. All they want is the shiny stuff. That's what your house is, a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get...more stuff! Sometimes you gotta move, gotta get a bigger house. Why? No room for your stuff anymore. Did you ever notice when you go to somebody else's house, you never quite feel a hundred percent at home? You know why? No room for your stuff. Somebody else's stuff is all over the goddamn place! And if you stay overnight, unexpectedly, they give you a little bedroom to sleep in. Bedroom they haven't used in about eleven years. Someone died in it, eleven years ago. And they haven't moved any of his stuff! Right next to the bed there's usually a dresser or a bureau of some kind, and there's NO ROOM for your stuff on it. Somebody else's shit is on the dresser.Have you noticed that their stuff is shit and your shit is stuff? God! And you say, "Get that shit offa there and let me put my stuff down!"

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Joyce is pointing to the ring on her pinky that her husband gave her to commemorate Hurricane Katrina.
This photo by Joshua Norman

This is Joyce. She's a secretary for a retirement community that I did a story on today. She and her hands were awesome. She said she painted her nails that color to go with Holloween and candy corn. She said each ring has special meaning for a different event or thing in her life.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Sorry that there weren't many photos of the city itself. We were, ahem, busy.

Don't worry, the national media would not let a good time like this pass them by. God forbid.
This photo by Joshua Norman

The good times certainly were rolling in the Vieux Carre. Glad to see it, too. The strangest part was, whenever someone would ask, "where you from?" and we'd say where, we'd always get a "oohhh, that's too bad," or "oh, god bless you honey," or "wow, you guys really got it, huh?
This photo by Joshua Norman

This was also along Hwy 11 south of Slidell. As Keller put it, "I think this just goes to show that we should have never moved away from medieval architecture."
This photo by Joshua Norman

Keller and I made a, ahem, reconnaissance trip to New Orleans yesterday. We took I-10 to I-12 and then went south on Hwy 11 to Hwy 90 and on into the city. I leave the details of our trip to my cohort, as he actually took notes. (He was writing something down, at least.) This is on Hwy 11 south of Slidell. While the low-lying areas looked bad like this, it's still better than Waveland or Pass Christian, as there are structures standing.

This photo by Joshua Norman

Saturday, October 08, 2005

And I leave this brief pictorial section with a shot of Mandy and Mack, her 7-year-old pet Pekin Duck. Yes, that's a stroller specifically for Mack. Yes, Mandy raised him from a wee-duckling. Yes, Mandy, Mandy's man, and Mack share a bed.
This photo by Joshua Norman

These guys were part of a seven piece Jazz band displaced from New Orleans. They came to play for free. Only the drummer and bass player still had their homes.
This photo by Joshua Norman

It was great to see the party jumpin' in downtown Bay. Definitely a town that needed a good party to distract itself, if temporarily.
This photo by Joshua Norman

No idea how that stump got there on Beach Blvd.
This photo by Joshua Norman

That lonely manhole and it's cover are all that's left of Beach Blvd at the bottom of Main Street in Bay St. Louis.
This photo by Joshua Norman

That's looking North up Beach Blvd from Main Street.
This photo by Joshua Norman

I also went to Second Saturday in downtown Bay St. Louis today. This is looking up Main Street from Beach Boulevard.
This photo by Joshua Norman

the SunHerald's wonderfully talented photographer, Jamie Bates, nabbed this one. it was during an incrdibly awkward moment. I was told I was only going to be able to ask one question. So, I asked, "Mr. Bush, I know you are a well traveled man. Did this compare to anything else you've seen?" To which he replied, and I sum, "Yes, Banda Aceh. In many ways this was worse though. I mean there, the human loss was worse, but they only lost fishing shacks on the beach. Here, you've lost historical and million dollar homes." While I understood what he meant, I couldn't help turning up my liberal-skeptical response to that. That's probably why I'm making that face.
This photo by Joshua Norman

This was just to give our readers an idea of the kind of entourage ex-Presidents roll with. The guy in the white shirt to the right was one of his three "handlers." Like how he's rolling up his sleeves to really get into it?
This photo by Joshua Norman

Ah, media swarms. Love 'em. No, really, I think they're great.
This photo by Joshua Norman

I was glad he came though, as this is what he got to see during his tour. That was a middle class neighborhood in Waveland.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Guess who came to town today? Yep. That's him. Someone from FEMA called the newsroom at 12:50 and said, "Bush Sr. will be in Hancock County at 1 today. Can you make it?" Good thing the office is only 45 minutes away. Gotta love the photo op.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Friday, October 07, 2005

Enough. As much as I hate to waste my energy on this, I have to say something. If there is a person going through this blog almost daily posting those Viagra ads on nearly every entry, please show some respect and stop.
And to readers, if you have any idea how to block individuals or specific commenters from commenting on the blog, please let us know how. It is not just annoying, it's a slap in the face to what we're trying to do here. You'll notice the lack of ads otherwise.
Thank you.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Tommy Coleman's elation didn't last long unfortunately. His sister was found the day after I met him in DMORT. Unfortunately, it took DMORT over three weeks to identify the body to FEMA's satisfaction, despite having DNA samples from family, descriptions, dental records and a positive ID from the family. Coleman said it had caused major infighting in his family. "Everyone's saying the other one isn't doing enough to get the body back." One of his 22 siblings, a brother form Virginia, had lost his job because he's spent so much time down here waiting for the body to be released and the funeral to happen. I met Tommy Coleman Sept 9 at DMORT. As of today, FEMA still hadn't released his sister's body because of several beauracratic hold-ups. "If someone dies on Monday we usually have them buried by Friday," Coleman said. "This is horrible." He also told me about his older sister, the one who watched the now deceased sister, Myra, float away with her house during the storm. He said the older sister jumped out the window with her two grandkids and turned to grab Myra and drag her out because Myra was too afraid to leave the house. He said the storm broke up the house and dragged Myra away and out of her sister's grasp. Neither Myra nor the older sister could swim, and the older sister now found herself in rushing, neck deep water with two grandkids in tow. A couch floated by, and the older sister grabbed it, Tommy said. "She told me she would have died for sure if it weren't for that couch."
This photo by Joshua Norman

I couldn't believe that they actually set the dentures one tooth at a time. He said they match up teeth based on comlexion, eye color, face shape, and so on. They even have the ability to change the way you smile. Who knew?
This photo by Joshua Norman

Dr. Norowski was big hearted. You could tell he was thrilled dentistry would help. With proper care, Coleman's dentures should last up to 15 years.
This photo by Joshua Norman

Thomas E. Coleman loves corn on the cob, but it has been over a month
since he has been able to eat any. Coleman, 48, had the misfortune of
watching his dentures float away Aug. 29, when the surge swept through
his east Biloxi neighborhood taking nearly everything in its path.
Soon, however, he will have the good fortune of a new, free set of
teeth, courtesy of Dr. Peter A. Norowski.
I first met Coleman at a Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team
center on Sept 9. He, his brother, James, a nephew and a cousin had come
to fill out forms and give DNA samples because his sister, Myra Booker,
went missing the day of the storm.
While being questioned about Myra, the subject of dentures came up.
Coleman started talking about losing his, and the five of us sitting
there found ourselves rolling around with laughter when Coleman said it
took him 45 minutes to eat a ham sandwich when it took a friend of his
just 10 minutes.
"I can�t eat no corn, no threemp," Coleman said through his toothless
While Coleman�s delivery was hysterical, the situation was tinged with
sadness. Coleman, who has been living on public assistance for several
years, could clearly not afford a new set anytime soon.
I related this story in the newsroom one day, and when the paper�s
editor, Stan Tiner, heard it, he put it in his column, along with an
open plea for any dentists to help.
Norowski read the column shortly after his return to Biloxi following
the storm and jumped at the chance to help.
"When we got back, we saw how bad things were," said Norowski, who�s
been practicing dentistry on the Coast since 1981. "We were helping with
the Red Cross with toothaches and such. We just wanted to help. I felt
fortunate that we still had an office."
Norowski prescribed medications for individuals in urgent trouble, but
there was not much else he could do, he said. So, he sent Stan an email,
and Stan passed on his contact information to me.
Coleman can be a hard man to reach. He is using a neighbor�s telephone
in Vancleave while staying at his cousin�s house because his home is
gone. After several abortive attempts, I finally got Coleman and
Norowski in touch with each other and the two got together for the first
time Thursday.
Norowski�s office is decorated with Elvis and rock�n�roll memorabilia,
as he was born and raised in Memphis.
A tall man with sandy-blond hair and a bright smile, Norowski said he
loves his job. He does a little bit of everything in his office, from
root canals to cleanings to the occasional surgery. His office is a
little lonely though, he said, which is why he is offering one of the
seven spare rooms to any of the 37 dentists who�s offices were destroyed
by the storm.
Coleman, who got there Thursday before the office even opened, shuffled
around a little sleepily. Norowski said he decided to cram three visits
worth of procedures into one, because he felt bad that Coleman had gone
so long without teeth. That meant a long day for Coleman.
The procedure for new dentures is complicated. It involves measuring the
jaw bones precisely, making molds of the gums, wax mock-ups of the final
model and finally setting all 24 teeth individually in the dentures for
a perfect fit.
Norowski�s office, as well as Acryllic Arts, the studio that puts the
final package together, will incur all costs. Norowski said it was just
the least he could do, and if he finds patients in situations like
Coleman�s in the future, he will be happy to do it again.
Coleman was sitting quietly in the dentist�s chair after Norowski made a
final mold of his gum line around noon. He nearly regurgitated the
hamburger that he gnawed on for lunch when they put the massive
mouthpiece in, but the soothing nature of Norowski and his assistant
Mary Jo King quickly calmed him down.
Afterwards, thoughts of new teeth lit up his face and had him thinking
about the post-denture menu already.
"I�m going to buy four ears of corn and butter them up and eat them
all," Coleman said.

This photo by Joshua Norman
Since people are still coming to this site to find out what is going on in South Mississippi from a personal angle, I will continue to report what I see.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

From left to right, that's David, Ricardo and Jose. They were harassed and rounded up by police at a Red Cross shelter. Jose and David were there because they lost their homes in Pass Christian. They fled for fear of deportation. They would not tell me whether or not they were documented, and I did not press the issue. I was only able to catch up with them at 10 p.m., as they normally work from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and then go for dinner afterwards. To bad my Spanish sucked, as they were a fun bunch of guys.
This photo by Joshua Norman
And the news:
There is only one bookstore and no library operating full-time in all of South Mississippi. While many who may not think of Southerners being all that literary, and I will not waste my energy disproving something so moronic, there were dozens of good bookstores down here that were ruined by the storm.
The death toll situation has turned interesting. There are lots of rumors, some from officials themselves, about the numbers for South Mississippi being a lot higher than officially reported. The coroner in charge stands by the 167 figure produced recently. There are also only around 101 still unaccounted for. 167 is a lot of people. I dare not venture to guess why officials seem to "wish" in a way that they could get the "truth" out of the coroner. Perhaps it's similar to the sensationlism that was reported about events in the Superdome and convention center. Same thing happened around 9-11 too. It's damn hard to keep your head in these situations.
I do admit that it is hard to believe that all those people I saw while driving around the night before the storm made it out okay. Glad it seems to have happened though.
In a way it reminds of that tree cutter in Long Beach, who survived by diving out of the second story window of his apartment as the floor gave out and clung to the top of an oak tree for eight hours. I guess a lot of people got lucky.
I've been working on a story about a bizarre incident that took place in a Red Cross shelter in Long Beach, the editor-butchered version of which appears below.
I am working on a bigger story about the Latino community in general, as many will move here for the contracting work. The Dept. of Homeland Security has waivered penalties for companies hiring illegals to do work down here. You can begin to imagine the influx of Latinos that will accompany that and who will then stay for the weather and relatively reasonable cost of living.

The following appears courtesy of the SunHerald:
When 20 law enforcement officers went to a Red Cross shelter in Long
Beach last week and asked for identification for many of the people
there, officers said they were responding to complaints.
But people who run the shelter and the people living there said it is
peculiar that the only people they asked for identification were
There are at least three versions of what happened on Sept. 28 at the
American Red Cross shelter at the West Harrison Civic Center on Espy
The Harrison County Sheriff's Department said it went to the shelter to
help protect the safety of shelter residents. Red Cross officials
manning the shelter said they were surprised that officers showed up.
Latinos said they were singled out.
Shelter Manager Scott Steiner was standing in the kitchen around 8 p.m.
that night when he saw flashing lights through the window. He said to
his surprise he discovered several lawmen rounding up Latinos, about 50
in all, in the corner of the parking lot.
About the same time, Aaron Gonzalez said he walked through the front
door of the shelter to take a shower and was grabbed firmly by an
officer. Gonzalez, a tough-looking young man with tattoos and angular
facial features, said the officer demanded his Social Security card and
drivers license, and then radioed in his name to see if he had any
outstanding warrants.
Jose Luis Rubera, a friend and occasional co-worker of Gonzalez, said
while he was being lined up and told to remove his shirt along with
dozens of other Latino men, "an officer said he was looking for child
Assistant shelter manager Mark Dragovich returned to the shelter from
doing outreach work shortly after the men were rounded up. He said a
lawman told him they were responding to a 911 call involving looting in
a nearby neighborhood with a Hispanic suspect and that they had told the
men to remove their shirts because the looter had a distinguishing
Capt. Windy Swetman, a Sheriff's Department spokesman who was not on
the scene, said he wasn't aware of a report of looting.
Swetman, and Capt. Tony Sauro, who coordinates multi-agency law
enforcement efforts post-Katrina, said deputies were responding to
complaints made prior to Wednesday involving incidents with drinking and
drugs in tents outside the shelter, where most Latinos were staying.
Steiner and Dragovich acknowledge that there had been problems in the
tents outside the shelter, but deny making the 911 call that
precipitated that incident. After the Sept. 28 incident, Red Cross
officials decided to disallow all tent use outside the shelter.
Vidala Leal-Rodas said her husband, who is from Mexico and has fair
skin and sandy-blond hair but speaks little to no English, was not lined
up or questioned at all despite walking right by a group of officers
while the incident was taking place.
According to Red Cross officials and several witnesses, the lawmen gave
the group of Latinos three options after their records and papers were
checked: get on a bus to Houston, Atlanta or Mexico.
Steiner said he and his coworkers came up with a fourth option: call
the many contractors who employ the men and see if space for their tents
could be set up either on a business site or in other places.
The Department of Homeland Security announced shortly after the storm a
waiver of penalties for employers who hire victims of Hurricane Katrina
without proper documentation.
Nearly all the men were able to find contractors to take them in. As a
result, none of the workers got on a bus, Steiner said.
Rubera said he had been living and working in Pass Christian for nearly
five years. While there were at least a dozen people or families who
showed up after the storm looking for work, Rubera said most had been
established in the community and they all worked together.
The Red Cross welcomes anyone who says they've been displaced by a
disaster and they need shelter, said spokeswoman Mary Lee Conwell.
She said if there were people in the shelter who were not displaced
because of Katrina, they now understand that they are not supposed to
stay there.
"We were not sure how many of them were displaced South Mississippians
or were they contract workers just coming in here and using these Red
Cross shelters as base camps," Swetman said.
Sauro said they also went to see if the men in tents needed anything.
He said they had planned to help relocate them if they had family or
friends in other states. Sauro said authorities soon learned that the
men in tents didn't want to leave; they were in town to work.
Swetman said it is law enforcement's responsibility to ensure the
safety of shelter residents.
"Nobody was arrested. We didn't fingerprint or ID everybody," Swetman
While the Latinos at the shelter claim they were singled out, Swetman
denies any prejudice.
"We in law enforcement cannot help what perceptions people have," Sauro
said. "We in law enforcement can only be sensitive to their perceptions.
That's why we went in there with no (U.S.) Border Patrol, no immigration
There have been enough responses now for me to go on with this blog for a while longer. At least, as one reader has put it, until it feels like a chore. And right now, it does not.
Thanks for the feedback. I have to admit to being pleasently surprised that we had so many readers.
In addition, we got a lovely letter recently from a gentleman in San Francisco who was so moved by this blog as to donate to the Knight Ridder Fund that will support all the SunHerald employees who's homes had been ruined or destroyed by the storm. (That number was at least 70, last I heard.)
Merci, mes amis. C'etais trop gentil.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Mike and I have been debating recently how much longer we should continue this blog.
I believe Senor Keller feels himself too cool, or is just acting blasé about continuing on.
I still feel it has a little life left in it.
There are many things we can't put in our reporting that I would like to keep posting here.
At the same time, we're nearing a point where we need to establish a new routine, pretend if you will that the whole situation around us isn't devastating and abnormal.
I'd like to both find out how many people are still bothering to read us and how interesting they still find it. I know we have some loyal readers, but I am curious about the larger audience as well.
I saw that we had been removed from bloggers "blogs of note" list, which was one of the reasons I began contemplating shutting the blog down.
There will be interesting stories to tell about this place until the day we leave. Our lives will certainly be constantly affected by it. For example, I still am sleeping on a futon on Keller's floor and going back to my apartment everyday to change my clothes and grab any other supplies I may need. I've put my name on at least 12 waiting lists for apartments from here to Wiggins. I'm usually number 120 on those lists too.
Keller - a swinging bachelor ladies - has realized recently that the well of date-able women has dried up dramatically since August 29.
Point of all this is, do we go on? What do you want to see here? Do I listen to Mr. Mope and just give up because I'm too cool?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Red Cross closed

Ken Geisler looks out over the empty Red Cross Financial Assistance center on Switzer Road in Biloxi. He'd traveled far hoping to get enough money to buy a tent. He's been sleeping in the woods under the stars and can't afford one otherwise.

Red Cross closed

The following appears courtesy of the Sun Herald:
Issac Trevino and Juan Carlos Martinez pulled up to the Red Cross Financial Assistance center on Switzer Road in Biloxi Saturday morning in their dilapidated green sedan after a long work week hoping to ease their post-Katrina lives.
It was one of the few free moments they said they could spare to find some extra assistance for themselves and their families, but there was almost no one to be found there.
"We need some help," Martinez said while sighing and tossing his hands
into the air. "What can we do now?"
Every Red Cross Financial Assistance center was closed Saturday in South Mississippi, except for one in Picayune, because officials decided late in the day Friday that they needed to spend the weekend catching up on the 70,000 claims filed last week, said Vicky Brown, a Red Cross spokeswoman.
The late decision to close left literally hundreds of residents and some volunteers standing around without a clue Saturday morning, including many who had been standing in line most of Friday only to see the centers closed and be told to return the following morning.
Red Cross Volunteer Romy Simpson said she had no idea the centers would be closed when she showed up to work at 8 a.m. Saturday morning at the Switzer Road center. She said hundreds of others seeking help had no idea either.
"There was a man who arrived in a cab from Louisiana," Simpson said. "A lady came from Baton Rouge with a bunch of her neighbors because she was having a hard time getting help there. It was kind of sad to see them there."
Even Tremingo Keys, a security guard for the Switzer Road center, expressed surprise at the Red Cross’s late decision to close.
"They didn’t say anything until yesterday evening after we closed," Keys said.
Ken Geisler, 48, showed up around 11 a.m. Saturday on Switzer Road sweating and looking exhausted after taking the bus from East Biloxi.
"This is beyond frustrating," Geisler said, adding that he listened to the radio all morning and heard nothing about the centers being closed. The fact that a center nearly 60 miles away in Picayune was open was no solace to him.
"That’s nice if you’re not broke," Geisler said. "I was hoping to at least buy a tent. I’m sleeping in the woods."
Geisler, a retired Air Force veteran, kicked a pebble and slowly turned around to head back to the bus and eventually on to his wooded home.
He said he was at the end of his rope with aid agencies after the storm.
"I’ve gone about as far as I can with FEMA, "Geisler said, adding that the Red Cross was one of his last hopes. "They don’tthink they’re hurting anybody but they are."