Take that Katrina--Keesler's back!

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tanya Holditch
  • Keesler News editor
Before I received orders last December, I was given a choice between Keesler or Pope Air Force Base, N. C.  I chose Keesler for a number of reasons, but the biggest was Hurricane Katrina. As a journalist, I wanted to tell the stories of people who found hope despite the destruction and began rebuilding. I wanted to be part of that type of community. 

Next week marks the three-year anniversary of Katrina and although the destruction is old news, there are so many stories to tell about the triumphs and the tremendous effort everyone has put toward rebuilding. I was here in 2003 for technical training and I am amazed to see that Keesler is better now than it has ever been. I feared when I took this assignment that I wouldn't be able to get groceries or have anything to do on Friday nights. How wrong I was. 

I drove down Highway 90 my first day here, and I recalled the businesses that used to be there. I thought, "How sad -- everything is gone." It wasn't until a co-worker gave me a picture book entitled "Katrina," that I realized how far this community has come.  The pages were filled with shocking images of destruction -- upside-down cars, roads ripped into a million pieces or under water, dogs on rooftops, old people with their shaky, bony fingers grasping for a stranger's outstretched hand.  A National Guardsmen with his head in his hands and a silent tear streaming down his face burned the quintessential image of Katrina's devastation in my mind.  I wondered where one even begins picking up the pieces. 

I saw a bumper sticker shortly after I arrived that said, "Together, WE rebuild."  And after being here for nine months, I now understand the collective pride in the voices of people who say, "Keesler is back!" The fervor, resolve and gumption of the people who lost everything and still found energy to rebuild is awe inspiring. Every day, new businesses pop up everywhere. The infectious teamwork gives people hope -- if he can do it, I can do it; together we are strong. 

Katrina was the worst natural disaster in United States history.  As individuals, we have all experienced devastation, whether it is a parent's death, the loss of a home due to bankruptcy or a divorce -- even moving can be tough.  When we finally accept we cannot turn the clock back, we can accept what has happened and begin looking forward.  

The people here looked around the day after "The Storm" at the piles of rubbish; their livelihoods were destroyed and basic supplies were scarce. Where did they even begin?  They looked at each other and said, "Let's do this!" They did it one step at a time. When we encounter our own metaphorical Katrina, we can follow the examples set by people here -- even though things look bleak now, the future can hold something even better for us. 

The moment we accept we are powerless against what happened, we become empowered knowing we can rise like a phoenix above the ashes and begin again. We are powerful as a team because we can create a new future that will benefit us all.  Just look at Keesler. We are back, better than ever, thanks to the collective effort of determined people, both military and civilian alike, and I am proud to call Keesler and Biloxi my home.