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The Collum Family and Hurricane Katrina


What happens after a hurricane? Well, my story is about what happened after Katrina in 2005.

It was the fifth day afterward, when I actually saw my house. You see, many of us pooled our resources and stayed with my mom, Mae Collum.   It was a hard time. We had no power for three weeks, or water for a week. We couldn't leave, for all the roads were blocked with downed power lines, debris, and parts of various structures. The food we had soon had been used. Our water supply we collected was getting low as well.

Being 75 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, we never thought her full impact would reach us as hard as it did. Katrina had been called a category three hurricane; therefore, we did not anticipate the catastrophic damage we would endure.

 My brother James Collum in Jackson (approximately 100 miles north of us) went to his local Wal-Mart, and purchased a lot of non-perishable food items, loaded it in a small trailer, and brought it via back roads with his dune buggy. There were no stores at all opened anywhere in our area. The trip would normally take him one hour to make; it took almost 4 hours to make the trip to us. James chose to bring his dune buggy instead of his car, so he could leave the road when necessary to avoid debris or downed power lines. We were never so glad to see anyone. He also brought some fuel with him to guarantee he could get back home, as there were no stations open anywhere in our area.

 Various schools in the area were distributing ice and water, but we were in a much damaged area. The roads were impassible to an ordinary vehicle. The local police were keeping civilians off the road. Those with emergency vehicles were the only ones on the roadways. Needless to say, we really needed ice and fresh water. We had discovered a broken water line under a bridge next to our mom's house. With considerable effort, we retrieved water from that source to wash clothes, flush toilets, and take baths. Our laundry was done "Little House on the Prairie" style, with tubs and buckets. We had wire strung across the yard to hang them on to dry. Taking a bath was interesting, also. We found that the "buddy system" worked well for this. The "buddy" could poor water over your head, and then you return the favor. Growing up poor was a prerequisite for this type of living.

To get back to my personal story, however, when I saw my house, I started crying because I was so blessed. There were sixteen trees down in my yard, but my house was still standing. Yes, the front windows were gone, and it had shifted on its blocks, but it was still standing!! Because the windows were gone, I had lots of water damage inside on the floors. But I still had a house. My back porch was gone, but I could climb into MY HOUSE!!  We nailed up some old lumber over the large holes where the windows had been. (8’wide and 6'tall). We secured everything, and went back to my mom's house. I felt so blessed to still have a house; I was not feeling the depression anymore.

My young brother Danny and his wife, lived on the coast, and lost everything in the hurricane. Their home was reduced to rubble, and the contents were nonexistent. They had removed some of the belongings for safekeeping. The belongings were in a storage shed in my mother's yard. Three trees went through that shed, and their belongings were either destroyed or damaged by the water going in through the roof. Their loss was so great, I felt guilty for being so blessed.

After three weeks, power and water was restored where I live, so I returned home. My son and his family moved in with me for a few weeks, because they still had no power.

My granddaughter Summer Gibson and I moved three trees off of my dog's house so my big shepherd could go home too. I also built a small make-shift back porch with some old lumber so we wouldn’t have to climb into the house.

The Red Cross was setting up a temporary place not far from where I live. Hundreds of people were lined up to get some help. I also went there. I felt so blessed; I asked if I could volunteer.  We went through a couple hours of "training", to know what questions to ask, to verify the damage, and I was ready to work. I worked there for three weeks. After seeing some of the damage, I really felt blessed. My sister-in-law also volunteered to work at the Red Cross. Yes, the one who lost everything. It was a real blessing to work alongside her. The people we were helping had no way of knowing that she was also a victim who lost all she owned. In a very professional manner, she interviewed each applicant with empathy, and filed the appropriate papers for the financial help the people needed. I gained great admiration for her during that time.

The volunteer work I did with Red Cross helped me more than anyone could imagine. I felt like I was giving back something, even though I received more than I gave. After three weeks of working for the Red Cross, my son asked me if I would like to help with the clean-up of a small hard hit town. I readily agreed.......that's another story.


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