Six months ago Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast. In spite of a lot of hard work, thousands of homes are still only rubble and many residents find their lives have been put on hold.
In some areas you can see signs of progress. But in others, if you didn't know better you would think Katrina hit yesterday. Some folks in the Biloxi area say it's a tale of two cities. In one area you'll see real progress; in another area the devastation left by Katrina sits like a picture frozen in time from late August of 2005.
Some residents of the Gulf Coast are finding it hard to come to terms with Katrina. Ruth Thompson is one of those finally dealing with the horror of Katrina.
During the storm Thompson was able to evacuate to Greenville, Alabama. She says the outpouring of support in the city was unbelievable and she was not prepared for what she saw on television.
"Once we actually got settled down enough to turn on the TV and see what was going on we said, "Oh my God, it's no wonder these people are doing this (being so nice)."
"I lost both my business and my home, but almost everybody did. It's not that unusual," says Thompson.
After returning to the Gulf Coast, she now finds herself living in an 8-by-6 FEMA trailer like so many of her neighbors.
"For the most part it's better," says Thompson. At least, that's the way I see it. I'm enjoying being more outdoors. I'm enjoying our carport/living room. We bought a chimney, so I can roast marshmallows....We've always said you don't need more then a 10-by-10-foot room on wheels, because where Jim goes I go and where I go he goes."
Bay St. Louis Director of Administration Buz Olsen says there are a lot of trailers "but that means people are moving back."
Olsen says it will take years for the city to be whole again and many businesses are still closed, meaning lost revenue for the city.
"It's not a hidden fact, we're borrowing money. The bank is only going to let you borrow what you can afford. Someone has got to help. If we have to pay these back and the note comes due the mayor says we'll just hand them the key.."
The city is about halfway through its debris removal. But red tape is holding things at bay. Any house built before 1960 is considered historic. Olsen says preservation groups are stepping in and FEMA won't demolish it.
"There are a lot of people who would rather tear their house down and start over, but bureaucracy has slowed that down," remarks Olsen.
And, there are residents like Thompson who can't afford to start over because home destroyed or not, they have to pay their mortgage and they're still waiting to hear from the insurance companies.
"You can't have a conversation without mentioning insurance. We haven't received a penny yet. Thank God for FEMA," says Thompson.
Thompson's outlook on life is amazing for someone who lost almost everything. Her new house, now the size of one room in her old home, now satisfies this survivor.
Thompson says immediately after the storm her outlook was not as cheery. "The day after the storm...it was pretty bad. But it was not about me. It was not what happened to me, it was about what happened to everybody else.
In the midst of the cleanup, weather experts are predicting this year's hurricane season could be even worse than last year. So, the threat of another setback is very real.