Carrie's Blog: My recollection of Hurricane Katrina - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Carrie's Blog: My recollection of Hurricane Katrina

Carrie Duncan shares her Katrina experience. (Photo source: WLOX) Carrie Duncan shares her Katrina experience. (Photo source: WLOX)
BILOXI, MS (WLOX) -

A decade ago, I had my 10 year high school reunion in Starkville, Mississippi. I was emailing with old classmates about the impending storm. I remember saying, "I'm not really sure I'll have a house after this, but we'll just wait and see." 

I took my last break before the storm at Rebecca and Ben's house, so I could get away from the station for a bit and get a shower. They lived south of the railroad tracks just off Lorraine Road. I remember folding my towel and leaving it on the back of her grandmother's rocking chair saying, "I'll just leave this here, so I can use it again once this is all over."

As many of you know, Rebecca and her husband Ben had to jump out of their second story house to get/swim to safety under a neighbor's carport and wait it out with their dog on top of a car huddled together. They were yelling just to hear each other.

Meanwhile back at WLOX, no one knew if they were dead or alive because the last conversation our executive producer at the time had with Rebecca was very panicked.

"I have to go. Our house is coming apart," said Rebecca.

Needless to say, I never went back to get it, but we've talked and even laughed about it a few times. It just shows how I really had no grasp on how enormous the situation was. I don't know that anyone who has never been through it could truly grasp it. It's still hard for me to believe.

My mindset was different from any other storm because I was a homeowner this go-round. I had to board up my house and cut the piece for porthole window because I didn't want that one to break thinking it may cost more to replace.

Well, I was incredibly lucky at the lack of damage my home received. A few missing shingles, missing ridge vent, fence down and A/C unit flipped over, but still working once I sat it back upright. 

I packed a very big bag because I had a feeling I'd be there for a while, and I was right. I was there for seven or eight days. I slept on a blow up mattresses with co-workers who were going through the exact same thing.

We were living in a disaster zone. It was hot, chaotic and unbelievable with every new piece of video coming into the station. Because we had a generator though, it was comfortable. We had food and water and even ice. So work became our Taj Mahal of South Mississippi. 

In the first couple of days after Katrina, I would almost zombie through the wall to wall coverage waiting for a break, so I could go somewhere and cry in disbelief. It was such an out-of-body experience at first.

You just never think it's going to happen to you. And it didn't just happen to me, it happened to all of us in varying degrees. Some of the people lost everything; I hurt for them.

Some co-workers disappeared for a couple of days to just cope with the gravity of the new normal. There were so many emotions. People lost their lives. I felt bad for even being upset about my few petty things I lost that mattered to me. 

I remember covering a story at Biloxi High School about a medical hospital setting up there. I saw these two boys walking up, and they gave me an uneasy feeling. I stayed very close to my photographer at that moment.

Then, I heard a muffled thud, thud, thud. I watched one of those boys punch the huge concrete pillar in order to break his hand. I was in mild disbelief at what I was watching. He then went to a nurse and told her he had broken his hand and needed pain medicine. 

That was one of my first thoughts that scared me. All of the people who were addicted to drugs weren't going to have their supply or suppliers anymore. It either washed away or drove the suppliers away. That incident confirmed my fear, and I didn't cover many stories after that. 

I stayed in the weather department and did what I could with the equipment we had working. We would give the news folks a break when we could, but we were all so shocked by the new footage coming in from all the reporters.

There were audible gasps when we would see some of the video. There were so many times we would look at video, and we couldn't figure out what we were even supposed to be looking at or for. Then we would catch a glimpse of a partial landmark and just be amazed at how obliterated it all was. 

I know I never want to go through anything like that again, nor do I want anyone to ever have to go through anything like that again. But, Katrina taught us to prepare. Although, even in being the most prepared, you can't prepare yourself for that type of devastation. 

I would use the word gone repeatedly. I'd say, "It's gone, like gone. It was a three story apartment complex on the beach a few weeks ago, and now it's not there at all. It’s GONE, totally gone."

I was bewildered that Mother Nature could be so destructive. I knew it logically and theoretically, but I had never experienced it in reality to that extent in my life. It still blows my mind to this day that it happened. 

I get anxious this time of year, like so many people who went through the storm. It's no coincidence that it is also heading into the peak of hurricane season. So, whenever we're talking about a Katrina anniversary, it seems we're also talking about a storm somewhere in the tropics too.

While they don't really have anything to do with one another, they're not completely separate either. More than likely it will happen each year, and it will continue to be the case year after year.

For all the bad Katrina did to this beautiful place, there was also good. I had been at WLOX for two years and 11 months and one week when Katrina roared ashore. I was under a three-year contract. As in many small markets, they're a stepping stone.

I was getting tired of working weekends, and I was ready to move on. But, God had different plans for me. Thank goodness that storm happened. I am so thankful. I wouldn't have the friends I have now. I wouldn't have my wonderful husband, so I wouldn't have had the opportunity to be a mother to my adorable little boy who is the apple of my eye.

I consider myself the eternal optimist. So, I thank Katrina. That storm truly cemented my life here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and molded my life into this blessing it is today. I couldn't be more thankful! 

"It is not happy people who are thankful; it is thankful people who are happy." -author unknown

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.  

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