August 25, 2010 marked the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. With so many other weather-related disasters in the world, it’s easy to forget one that happened five years ago. Yet the people whose lives were affected by Katrina are still living with daily reminders of the storm and its aftermath.
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, was one of the areas hardest hit by the storm, which made landfall nearby at high tide, causing a storm tide over 30 feet (9.1 m) deep. Lives, buildings, and neighborhoods were destroyed. Adventures in Preservation, then known as Heritage Conservation Network, sent teams of volunteers the following January and March to help clean up historic neighborhoods and salvage materials for reuse. One of the people we met there was our project partner, Ellis Anderson.
As we have found with so many of the people we meet through our work, Ellis is an amazing person. A writer, designer, musician and civic activist, she saw her neighbors face the enormity of making their homes and neighborhoods livable again with courage, pride, and a common sense dose of humor.
Ellis rode out the storm in her home and struggled through the aftermath along with neighbors and friends. Ellis is a courageous woman who opened her house to a number of people who lost theirs. She became involved in fighting for the best recovery plan for the town, giving endless hours and boundless energy. It was a long struggle but she stuck with it, giving her all to her neighbors and the town. She also recorded her story, and her book, “Under Surge Under Siege”, was published in June. We have just learned that she has been named the 2010 recipient of the annual Welty Prize book award, to be presented at the Eudora Welty Writer’s Symposium in October.
Ellis describes the book as a blend of memoir, personal diary and journalism, whose lyrical style creates a modern-day American testament to the strength of the human spirit.
- Book’s website: undersurge.com
- NPR Story: Five Years After Katrina, A Return To Bay St. Louis