Survivor says devastation #8216;smelled like death#039;

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 30, 2006

At 9:01 a.m. CST yesterday, August 29, sirens sounded and church bells rang across Hancock County, Mississippi. The bells rang 56 times to commemorate each of the people killed in the county by Hurricane Katrina.

Some of those 56 victims were old family friends of Patricia &uot;Trish&uot; Adam, who was born and raised in the southernmost county in Mississippi.

&uot;It’s hard…it’s very hard to lose your friends, your home, your livelihood,&uot; Adam says, her voice quavering.

Adam, like so many fellow Gulf Coast Mississippians, was displaced when Katrina’s lethal eye moved across the county, shredding homes and businesses, washing away buildings, flattening entire communities and taking dozens of lives.

Media descriptions failed to capture the extent of the destruction, Adam said.

&uot;Everything was just twisted and torn up. It smelled like death. That’s the only way to put it,&uot; she said.

&uot;There was three or four feet of mud in whatever buildings were still standing.

You didn’t know what you were going to be stepping on – a dead animal, a dead body.&uot;

With millions in property losses and over 200 dead from the storm, Hancock County, Mississippi would likely have received national attention as the most incredible storm story in a generation.

That is, until the levees broke in New Orleans.

&uot;We hear so much about what happened in New Orleans, and some about Biloxi and Gulfport,&uot; Adam, who now lives in Georgiana with her family, said.

&uot;But what about all the other little towns, like Pass Christian, Clermont Harbor, Kiln, Waveland, Bay Saint Louis, Picayune and others? They forgot about those places. And people really suffered there -and they still are.&uot;

Adam and her family attempted to stick it out in Mississippi even after their rented home was destroyed. But the house they found to rent post-Katrina ultimately became too expensive.

&uot;The landlord kept raising the rent and it was more than we could pay, We couldn’t find anything else. So we were basically made homeless,&uot; Adam explained.

With so many homes and businesses destroyed, Adam’s cleaning business had also been devastated by Katrina.

&uot;It’s hard to leave family, friends, even one child behind – my son decided he wanted to stay – but we felt we had no choice but to leave,&uot; Adam said with tears in her eyes.

The family came to Greenville approximately four months ago in search of a fresh start. They lived in the Jameson Inn, until Josh Smith of the Jameson offered them a house rent-free for six months in Georgiana.

&uot;It’s been a big adjustment,&uot; Adam admitted.

&uot;Home will always be home, back in Mississippi.

But it’s going to take a long time before things get back to normal down there. I figure it’ll take five to eight years to look like it used to.&uot;

Katrina was definitely one for the record books, Adam said.

&uot;I think even the people who went through Camille, older people, younger, everybody was hard hit by this storm. You can still see it in their eyes.&uot;

The displaced Mississippian said she is frustrated to see so many people in her home county struggling to survive one year after Katrina.

&uot;People still need help down there. Some don’t have clean drinking water. Some are still waiting on their FEMA trailers,&uot; Adam said.

&uot;Now (the government) is saying they don’t want them in the trailers if a storm approaches. What are they supposed to do, live in tents? What do you do?&uot;

Adam is trying to get back on her feet in her new home. She already has a phone number set up for the cleaning business she is establishing locally. And she’s looking for an affordable car.

&uot;It’s going to be a long, hard process of recovery. You have to pull together and work together, and really, small towns are better at that, I think. That’s something they don’t have in New Orleans,&uot; Adam said.

&uot;The people of Alabama have been excellent to us from the beginning right after the storm, bringing us water, MREs and other supplies,&uot; the Katrina survivor said.

&uot;You all remembered the small towns. It’s not all about New Orleans. I don’t want anyone to forget about our little Mississippi towns and what happened with Katrina.&uot;