Friday, July 07, 2006
My Hurricane Story
8-year-old Nicholas lost his house, his pet turtle and his friends during Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Writing about it helped, he says.
Photo: Dan Sadowsky/Mercy Corps
Here at D'Iberville Elementary School, a few miles from where the Gulf of Mexico laps the sands in front of Biloxi's casinos, nearly every kid has a hurricane story. And the prevailing theme is loss.
Eight-year-old Nicholas lost his house, two sets of friends, his pet turtle and the company of both parents, who separated in the aftermath of the storm.
Nicholas and his classmates at the local Boys & Girls Club were encouraged, through Mercy Corps' Comfort for Kids program, to write essays about how the hurricane affected them.
"I wrote about my pets, my friends, how I had to move back and forth," says Nicholas, a puckish, freckle-faced blonde who broke away from a frenzied game of duck-duck-goose to talk about the experience.
Tara Haney, the D'Iberville site director, says about half the kids lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, which leveled trees and houses and piled up billions worth of damage across coastal Mississippi. Most of the youngsters at D'Iberville are coping better than one might expect, Haney says, but the essays did raise red flags for a few of the kids. The stories were "heartbreaking" to read, she says, but a healthy release for the kids to write. "They were able to get it all out," says Haney.
Nicholas, who is in second grade, had a lot to say. "The hurricane made me move to North Carolina, away from my friends," he says, recounting what he wrote. "And then my new friends in North Carolina, after the hurricane was gone I had to leave them, too."
What's more, the storm coincided with his parents' divorce. Since returning to the Gulf Coast, he's lived with his mom and siblings in a FEMA trailer on the property of a family friend in the town of Gautier, Mississippi, about 15 miles east of D'Iberville. His dad remains in North Carolina.
Writing about his ordeal helped work out some of his feelings, Nicholas says. "At first it was depressing and sad. But if you don't let out your emotions, you're going to explode. So it helped."
Excerpts from essays written by Boys and Girls Club participants through the Comfort for Kids program:
Girl – Age 8
For Katrina I was at my house. Hurricane Katrina hurt our house. It was flat like a pancake really, but I wish I did not stay. I feel really bad about it. It is hard for me. I don’t feel good right now. I wish the hurricane has not come here.
Girl – Age 12
Hurricane Katrina affected us and our Boys & Girls Club. My house and my Boys & Girls Club are gone. My school is a bunch of trailers by the school. The Boys & Girls Club is in the cafeteria. I am living in a trailer as big as a room. Every day we have to use Porti-Pottys. I was very sad because I lost my cats. There is like not one house that is in my neighborhood that is livable.
Boy – Age 13
Hurricane Katrina has affected my life and the Boys & Girls Club Pass Christian Unit in a whole lot of ways. It has affected my life by taking my house and I don’t have anything I used to have such as my old clothes and my scrapbooks. I also lost a lot of pictures of my friends who are no longer here.
Girl - Age 11
My neighborhood was destroyed. It left so many people without family, and houses, and jobs. Then to make it worse, we had to live without TV and water. It made me realize that what I have today could be gone tomorrow. I am thankful that I did not lose my family or friends. Without my family I couldn’t have gotten through the storm. They calmed me down when I got upset.
Boy – Age 11
Katrina affected my life because I had to move. I did not like most of the changes. A lot of things happened to me. My school changed, my house changed, my friends changed and also my family.
Girl – Age 10
When I was hit by the hurricane many things happened, and many things changed. Many of my family died. All of my friends were gone. People say that if you believed in luck your house would still be there, but they were wrong. My house and everything in it was gone. So now we live in a FEMA trailer and we are lucky we are one of those that don’t have to live on the street.
Posted by Network for Good at 11:50 AM