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Looking back: AFP publisher visits Gulf Coast after Katrina

By Crystal Graham

Three years ago, I visited Long Beach, Miss., to learn more about what Valley volunteers were doing to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A local group, The Valley Responds, was regularly sending volunteers to rebuild the region.

I will never forget what I saw, both in terms of the devastation and the will and resolve of the people that I met there to rebuild. I am just hoping and praying that they don’t have to endure this a second time.

Part one: Impressions of Long Beach (10.31.05)
Part two: A Halloween to remember (11.01.05)
Part three: Rebuilding their homes, lives (11.02.05)
Part four: Life is an adventure (11.03.05)
Part five: The healing power of God (11.04.05)
Part six: Valley responds … or not (11.07.05)

With Gustav headed in the direction of the Gulf Coast again, my thoughts went back to the families that I met on my trip.

By now, their lives are likely back to a regular pace – with ballfields and schools and churches rebuilt. I’m sure, for most, the normalcy made them put Katrina out of their minds – that is, until news of Gustav hit the airwaves a few days ago. With Gustav, experts warn this could be the storm of the century.

My thoughts are with the people I met in Long Beach and Pass Christian – like Stella Wolf, who as a healthcare worker rode out the storm with her husband, and Elizabeth Fortenberry, who was operating a school out of a makeshift facility, and the Kimble family, whose home was intact but not liveable after the storm. And I will never forget Marsha and Corri Allen who tried their best to find a silver lining knowing everything they had – except each other – was gone.

It is hard to imagine that these same families have likely fled again … and don’t know what they will come home to.

As a journalist, we are told to be impartial in news stories. And yet, as a person, I came home to the Valley deeply impacted by my trip to Long Beach. The stories were real and the devastation was unimaginable.

As the publisher of Augusta Free Press, we make it our mission to invoke action whenever possible in making our community and the world a better place to live. Please join us in our mission to do what we can to help our friends on the Gulf Coast.

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