LONG BEACH -- Carole White smiled approvingly
at the large pile of debris – an unwelcome assortment of mementos
from Hurricane Katrina - at the end of her driveway, the result
of cleanup efforts by some of her colleagues from the University
of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus.
"It's the best pile on the street," said White, an
admissions counselor at the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Student
Service Center, as a crew left her Pecan Wood Cove home in Long
Beach and headed to their next assignment.
A group from the Hattiesburg campus has gone to the coast regularly
on weekends to help fellow employees recover from the Aug. 29
storm, taking on such tasks as clearing or throwing away debris,
cutting and removing downed tree limbs, moving furniture and
other possessions and tearing out molded drywall or floors.
For White, getting her home and yard back to pre-Katrina conditions
has proven to be a challenge as she tries to juggle work at
the university and then doing what she can after work and on
weekends. With the recent fall daylight-saving time change,
the task has become more difficult, with less hours of light
to work with. She lost four to five trees in the storm, causing
severe damage to her roof.
White got help clearing her yard of branches, limbs and roof
tile, among other items. And after Saturday's cleanup party,
finishing the task seems less daunting to her.
"I was so happy I almost cried," she said when recounting
the phone call from Mary Beth Applin, MLIS, an associate professor
of library sciences in Hattiesburg, telling her she was next
on the schedule to get help. "It's the best thing to happen
to me since the storm, even better than getting my insurance
Dr. Eric Luce, associate professor in the Southern Miss Gulf
Coast Division of Education and Psychology, said his Hattiesburg
colleagues are no less than heroes for their efforts to help
after helping tear out wet and molded insulation, drywall and
other material from the first floor of Luce's Ocean Springs
"It was like the cavalry arriving, just in time,"
Luce said. "They must have worked six solid hours in just
that first week they were there.”
“When there's so much to do, and you're standing there throwing
away your possessions, it tends to paralyze you and it slows
your progress,” he said.
Homes away from home
More than 100 Southern Miss Gulf Coast faculty and staff were
displaced by the killer storm, and many are still unable to
return to their homes. Some have no home to return to.
Luce had to take up accommodations at one of the Pine Haven
Apartments on the Southern Miss Hattiesburg campus after the
storm. His dog Maggie, a golden beagle, has also had to make
do with new living arrangements, as she currently takes residence
at Webster's "Bed and Bone" in Woolmarket.
"When I'm not teaching or cleaning up my house, I take
advantage of visitation rights to see Maggie," Luce joked.
"Lots of people on the coast are in the same situation,
having to make arrangements for their pets to stay at kennels,
with relatives or with friends."
Despite his ordeal, Luce hasn't lost his sense of humor or
"I now have the loft apartment I’ve always wanted, just
not in SoHo," he said, referring to his home's gutted first
Then quickly, he counts as good fortune that he has a home
to salvage - not so the case with many of his neighbors. "Because
of the volunteers from the Hattiesburg campus and others, my
house was probably saved," he said.
Just being there for a co-worker means as much emotionally
as does the physical help, said Southern Miss Gulf Coast history
professor Dr. J. Pat Smith, who has helped link Hattiesburg
faculty and staff with coast employees needing assistance.
Smith praised the ongoing efforts to help his coast co-workers,
citing how "total strangers have reached out to help with
unimaginably nasty and unbelievable and physically difficult
"Cleaning out a house that has been ruined by foul flood
waters, cutting up giant trees, dragging a whole house full
of furniture to the street, helping a person who has lost it
all to sort through the rubbish to salvage a few photos or personal
remembrances of life pre-Katrina - it's amazing that human beings
will rise to give such gifts."
Southern Miss Hattiesburg foreign language professor Dr. Bill
Powell, who also serves as president of the Faculty Senate,
said he and other volunteers from the Hattiesburg campus are
committed to coming back as long as there is a need.
"It's such an overwhelming task here on the coast,"
said Powell, in between chain sawing large tree limbs in White's
back yard. "Everyone needs help."
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is
a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling
its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering
individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition
of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating
a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural
enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern
Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss, with an additional campus
and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast;
further information is found at www.usm.edu.
For more information, contact David Tisdale at (601) 266-4499.
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