Pass Evacuees Return Home And Find A Mess

Cynthia Willett dug a frame out of the rubble in her yard.

"Isn't that amazing, the mirror made it," she said.

A family mirror -- a reflection of life before Katrina for the Willett family.

"We're just looking for anything we can find and recognize," Willett said.

For two weeks, the Willetts had a number of unanswered questions. This trip home resolved many of the mysteries. They saw friends who they worried about during and after Hurricane Katrina. And they found family treasures hidden under large piles of hurricane debris.

Mary Willett marvelled at what she uncovered.

"I didn't think I would find anything. I really didn't," she said.

Yet a block from the Willett's slab, her husband spotted his couch, dangling from a tree that withstood Katrina's wrath.

Jerry Willett laughed, and then shouted, "There's my ladder."

This was the first day Pass Christian allowed residents back into neighborhoods that collapsed under the relentless power of Katrina's unmerciful storm surge. Uncovering small trinkets became cause for celebration.

Dorothy Smith was in an adjoining lot, looking for her own posessions.

"It feels pretty good to have my neighbors here," she said. "We're supporting each other, and finding each other's things and putting them out if we think it's something that somebody wants."

Mary Willett knew how lucky she was.

"I see a lot of stuff we're going to save. And that's more than some people have," she said.

Pass Christian authorities handed out a flier when evacuees drove past the checkpoint that until today prevented families from seeing this devastation. The flier had this warning. You enter at your own risk. It said the area as you knew it has changed dramatically.

John Altier walked down one of those dramatically altered streets.

"There's nothing. It's just all gone," he mumbled.

Altier lives on Clark Street. He came up with one of the most colorful descriptions of the debris field near his Pass Christian home.

"My house looks like it was crushed by King Kong, just twisted and turned," he said.

"Look at it. It's just crunched. It's bad. It's like going through the Red Sea, instead of water on two sides, there's debris. Right down the street. They must have taken six houses off the middle of the street and just crushed them and pushed them off to the side."

Those piles contained small parts of people's lives. The Willetts knew that. So they carefully searched as many piles as they could. It seemed like every time the Willetts lifted up some debris, they discovered another piece to their past.

This threesome feels very fortunate. Sure, their home is buried under an avalance of hurricane clutter. But so is every other home on Beachview in Pass Christian, "so it isn't going to do us any good to sit here and cry," Mrs. Willett said.

"Nobody is going to feel sorry for you. So I'm just happy for every little thing I find."