August 29, 2005, forever changed the landscape of the Mississippi Gulf Coast when Hurricane Katrina ripped ashore with a twenty-eight foot storm surge. My college roommate grew up in the quaint coastal town of Pass Christian. Her house above is after Katrina, and below is a day before.
One day can wipe out so much of our lives. One storm. One phone call. One goodbye.
I wrote my latest novel Magnolia Storms because Katrina had so impacted the lives of Mississippians even after a decade. I had no idea that only shortly before the release, monster storms lurked in the Gulf. So instead of what I planned, I’ll share a few personal accounts that I added to the back of my novel about Katrina. Perhaps they will be an encouragement to others who have recently been through a storm.
My brother rode out the storm with my eighty-year-old father in our parents’ home across from the beach. They went upstairs when water started coming in, then at some point the house started shaking and sailing back. Water came bursting through the front of the house. The whole place started collapsing and disintegrating below them. A line of trees in our backyard stopped the house. There was a dormer window in the back hall of the second story. They climbed out of that window and stayed on the roof at the back of the house. Water pushed through around them in rolling waves. They waited for hours under a small roof section that provided a little alcove while the wind blew projectile boards, debris, etc. around. It was during those hours that the Bible floated up as well as an old suitcase that had been in the attic for years. They found an old feather quilt in it that had been my mother’s as a child. They used it to stay warm, and it kept my father from getting hypothermia.
Pass Christian resident
(From the brother above) At some point during the storm, as I looked around, I noticed down below us right at the edge of the roof, a green book had fetched up. As I focused on it and considered what it could be and how it could have gotten there, it occurred to me that it looked just like one of the pocket Bibles that the Gideons distribute in hotel rooms. At first, I just left it where it was. I had no interest in going out into the wind unless it was necessary. But as I sat there and rolled this around in my mind, it began to seem like a minor miracle, some sort of sign, if it really was a Bible. I have subsequently joked that maybe God was telling me that I wasn’t praying enough, that I better step it up a notch or two if I wanted us to make it through. And, in fact, I did continue to pray. All I know is that I thought something very important and meaningful had happened with the Bible somehow landing right at our feet. I knew I had to get the Bible before it blew away because it had become very important to me and I didn’t want to lose it. So I crawled down and grabbed it and put it in my pocket for safekeeping. When I later asked Mama if we had such a book anywhere in the house, she couldn’t think of any. So where could it have come from? There is really no logical explanation that comes to mind, so maybe it really was a miracle, sent by God.
Pass Christian resident
In all of our experiences—from delivering relief supplies to rebuilding homes—the threads that resonate throughout the years are the reality of how quickly your life perspective can be radically changed, the very real presence of a loving God Who cares greatly for us—often in surprising ways, and how tragedy can unexpectedly weave lifelong friendships into our lives that otherwise would not have been formed.
My mother was an eighty-year-old lunch lady at the school with no savings. Her home was one house away from the beach in Pass Christian. We arrived after the storm to find the bottom floor had well over ten feet of storm surge, but it was still standing, unlike the house in front, which was gone, along with most of the rest of town—places that formed my memories of growing up. The insurance company was saying it wasn’t hurricane damage, but flood, and flood damage wouldn’t be covered. But the blessing was that our family came together, removed the debris, found termite damage, and were able to collect money for that. Churches from Pennsylvania hung sheetrock and put in Mama’s floors. We recognize that our salvaged home is a miracle, and we have a story of coming together, a story of hope.
Terry Hunt, Pass Christian
Before and after videos of the area if you’re interested:
A Coastal Hearts Novel
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you….
Maggie Marovich couldn’t save her father or her home from Hurricane Katrina, but she’s dedicated her life to meteorology so she can warn others when the monster storms approach. Except…she works three hours inland and rarely risks returning to her childhood hometown of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Both her single-parent sister and the ship pilot Maggie once loved refused to leave the Coast, despite Maggie’s requests. Now a hurricane’s headed toward Mississippi, and Maggie’s sister is seriously injured, leaving Maggie little choice but to head south—into the storm.
The water and tides flow through Josh Bergeron’s veins, and he can’t imagine giving up piloting—even for the love of his life, the infuriating Magnolia Marovich. He tried to move on without her, marrying and having a child. But after his wife abandons him and his little boy, his career choice is threatened by the weight of his parental responsibilities. Moving next door to Maggie’s sister and sharing their child care seems like the perfect set-up. Until Maggie blows back into town.
Being forced to lean on Josh for help washes up the wreckage in Maggie’s faith. Where was God during the destruction of Katrina? Why do some prayers seem to go unanswered? Between the hurricane looming in the Gulf and another gale raging in her heart, can Maggie overcome her past and find the trust to truly live?
I hope the story offers comfort to those in storms of all kinds. Prayers to all affected by the recent hurricanes. I’d love to give a copy of the eBook to one person who comments on this message through Sunday, 09/17/17. (void where prohibited)
[The winner of the eBook will be announced on Monday, 09/18 in a comment on this blog message.]
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