Former MS First Lady says Katrina taught her true meaning of humanity

Former MS First Lady says Katrina taught her true meaning of humanity

Mississippi's former first lady says the kindness and generosity she witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina taught her the true meaning of humanity.

On Thursday, Marsha Barbour took part in a ceremony in Pascagoula to commemorate 10 years since the Coast was forever changed.

As she flew over the Mississippi coastline in the days following Katrina, Barbour felt overwhelmed by the devastation  and wondered how the area could ever put it all back together again. Ten years later, the first lady says while the coast lost so much, what the area gained are bonds with volunteers who came to help.

One of those volunteers was Deb McKinley who is in Pascagoula to help Habitat For Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast build houses for people in need.

This is McKinley's sixth time in the area from Michigan since Hurricane Katrina.

"A lot of people can do a lot of things if they work together," said McKinley. "I'm one of those people. I just want to help people."

Barbour says while the devastation of Hurricane Katrina drew countless volunteers to the state, it was the Southern hospitality that kept many of them committed coming back through the years. 
 
"They did that because of you. The people that live down here," Barbour said. "Because of your graciousness, your manners and your grit. And your willingness to take them in and give them whatever little you had."

Barbour says the kindness of Mississippians showed after Katrina amazed her.

"I'm so happy to get around and see the people because they are the ones that gave me strength to come back," said Barbour. "They are ones that taught me so much. If you mentioned humanity to me. Humanity. I didn't really understand what it meant. But boy did I get to witness the best of humanity first hand."

In the aftermath of Katrina, Barbour did everything from making calls to try to get electricity connected to FEMA trailers, to going around passing out supplies.

"We had story after story about neighbors helping neighbors," added Barbour. "The neighbors had so little but every time I would deliver in my pickup truck and offer to leave something for someone, they'd say 'That's enough for me but you've got to go to the shut in widow that's five miles away. Maybe nobody's made it to her.'"

Volunteers say seeing how bad things were after Katrina and how Mississippians never gave up hope is inspiring.

"People are tough. The tougher the situation it makes you, you respond accordingly," McKinley said.

Former Governor Phil Bryant also spoke at the event. Wells Fargo Bank made a $15,000 donation to Habitat for Humanity.

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