My heart truly does belong to the Gulf Coast. From studying sea turtles in the panhandle of Florida to advocating on behalf of the environment and people of New Orleans after Katrina, I’ve loved the area with all my heart. I enjoy driving the coast between Panama City and New Orleans when the opportunity arises. So many wonderful cities and towns to stop at along the way. The environment is gorgeous, the pace is slow, the people are welcoming, and there is an appreciation for the important things in life: friends, neighbors, and family (not to mention the cuisine…yum). A friend of mine recently moved down to the Mississippi coast and what she said was heartbreaking. It behooves me to share her words:We are on the coast of Mississippi. It’s pretty weird here- the neighborhood where we finally found a house looks like it was bombed. The houses are almost all up in the air- some as much as 14 feet, there are lots of vacant lots, and virtually no fences. It really looks like people have given up. We’re just two block from the beach- since the property along the beach highway is empty, we can see the beach from our front yard. It seems like Mississippi kind of got lost after Katrina- and then there was the oil spill. I had no idea it was so bad here. The towns to our west lost so much property, and therefore tax base, that they haven’t got the $$ to put into recovery.
I guess I already knew this to some degree because I’ve been there since both Katrina and the oil spill. Still it saddens me to hear that we may never get back what was lost. Perhaps my hope for rebirth was misguided after all. Those residents may never feel truly at home again–wondering when it’s all going to wash away for good–and what once was a beautiful coast now looks like a dump. I sincerely hope that my friend and those like her rebuild responsibly and finally bring the coast back, better than ever.
For those compelled to learn more, here is link to the Gulf Restoration Network. They do fantastic work. They allowed me to volunteer with them for several weeks after Katrina and you really couldn’t find a nicer, more dedicated group of people.