Europeans See Post-Katrina Damage First-Hand

Images of our area post-Katrina were broadcast all over the world, but the pictures pale in comparison to seeing the destruction firsthand.

Peter Smulders, who is from the Netherlands, visited Mississippi for the first time this week.

"We saw it (Katrina coverage) everyday on television."

Smulders says his English isn't very good, but he had no problem expressing his dismay at the destruction along the Long Beach coast line. "Now we see it with our own eyes," Smulders said. "It's quite impressive. I've never seen such a thing before, but it's more impressive in reality than when you see it on television."

Smulders' traveling companion, Seth Vendenbossche, is also from the Netherlands. He was equally surprised at what he saw in South Mississippi.

"I saw the floods in New Orleans, but it's way more devestating than I thought it would be, actually," Vendenbossche said.

Smulders and Vendenbossche also discovered that pre-Katrina maps aren't good guides when it comes to getting around these days.

"Actually, we were thinking of doing a scenic drive, starting in Biloxi, then we took to 90, then ended up where there was a roadblock because the bridge was totally swept away, and we were kind of astonished," Vendenbossche said.

"I didn't know it was so severe, so heavily," Smulders said. "We had no idea what we saw. We were talking to each other in the car, saying, gee, what happened to this country?"

The traveling pair say they're leaving with snapshots--and a resolve to do what they can to help with our recovery.

"We think we should do more in Europe about this disaster than we did until now, I guess," Smulders said.

By Toni Miles