USM To Open World Class Katrina Research Center

"Put pictures and your design paper on first with the glue," Ann Kippes instructed her students at Long Beach Middle School.

The students are each creating a collage of Katrina.

"They're really creating from their hearts, and a lot of the students were here during the hurricane," Kippes said. "They are images of things they've seen. Things they had been through."

"I have pictures of what she (Katrina) had done," said 8th grader Heather Miller. "And a few kids in the middle show how many people were dead. Even the children. The little babies."

"We had them write poems and statements," Kippes said.

Heather read a poem she wrote:

"Through the darkness, I see a light. It is her, sweeping her anger onto the Bay. She is beauty, but not for us. Raging the water from shore to shore. Destroying house by house. She leaves with satisfaction. But we are left with tears and deaths. Thus, the sun rises and the damage was clear."

Those moving words and pictures are emerging on a rather unusual canvas. The students are decorating plates, that were salvaged from the Dining Hall at USM Gulf Park. The colorful plates will go on display at USM this Fall. They will be part of the Katrina Research Center, located on the third floor of the Long Beach campus library.

"There will be display cabinets in every little niche, that are going to be highlighting the artifacts that we're collecting," said USM Exhibits Coordinator Dr. Deanne Nuwer. "What we envision is, this is going to be, as we say at USM, a world class center. It's going to be a wonderful research center."

The center will house a huge collection of storm-related books, videos, and memorabilia, like a tattered American flag that once flew over the campus.

"It's amazing that the wind did this, and knotted it like that," Dr. Nuwer said.

Whether it's a symbol of destruction, or beauty that rises from a disaster, they will all be a part of the living Katrina memorial.

"We were all in this together," Dr. Nuwer said. "I think together, this center will memorialize what we went through. I think it's necessary to have it. At least we never forget. We are living probably a 20 year disaster, and I think if we can document and help people understand how to better cope, the resources available, what exactly happened, what type of forms you need to fill out, this Katrina Research Center is going to be everything."

USM is still looking for materials that focus on Katrina, Camille, or disasters in general. If you would like to contribute, or participate in the oral history project, call USM at (228) 865-4573.