The Scene in Mississippi
This was my first time covering a hurricane, and as luck would have it, it was one of the deadliest hurricanes in history.
This was my first time covering a hurricane, and as luck would have it, it was one of the deadliest hurricanes in history. We arrived in Biloxi the day before the storm, and prepared to "batten down the hatches" so to speak. From that point on, it was an experience I could never, nor would ever want to, forget.
I spent the first hours of the storm in my hotel room bathtub, but when the roof started to disappear, I thought I'd be safer down in the lobby. We all spent the next five or six hours riding out the 120-plus mile-per-hour winds in the lobby, and by 5 or 6 p.m., the winds began to die down.
First hurdle cleared—we survived the storm.
But that's when the real shock came ... My photographer, my sound technician and I were the first media crew to cross the I-110 bridge from our hotel in Ocean Springs, Miss., into downtown Biloxi. I was definitely not prepared for what I was about to see. Trees across the highway were only the beginning. We saw large boats in people's front lawns, and as we got closer to the beach, the destruction got worse.
I was amazed at the kind of catastrophic damage wind and water could cause. There was a large pile of 40 or 50 cars on top of each other, stacked three high. The entire bottom floor of an apartment building was gutted. And the casinos, which only days before were the center of commerce for southern Mississippi, were badly damaged.
Two images in particular will stick with me forever ... Tuesday morning at about 2 a.m. ... only hours after the winds had died down, we were driving around Gulfport, Miss., heading back towards Biloxi. The town was pitch black, and as we drove out, I looked up to the sky. There was a line of clouds going from East to West, as far as I could see in either direction, and behind it was a crystal clear, black night sky with thousands of stars. The storm had finally moved out—almost 24 hours after it came barrelling in, and it gave me the sense that "OK, now the destruction is done. The cleanup can begin." At that point, I didn't know what my colleagues stationed West of us in New Orleans were experiencing. The destruction had only just begun.
The other thing I will never forget is the St. Charles Apartment Complex. We had gotten reports that 30 or more people had died in this one apartment complex alone, so we drove to the location to see what we could find out. After hiking over what seemed like an endless pile of rubble, every inch of which had rusty nails sticking out of it, we reached the site of the St. Charles Apartments ... What was left of them was a concrete slab, and a few mementos of better days in Biloxi strewn all over the place.
The survivors we came across were extraordinary. They could not have been more gracious and friendly. They had lost everything, and were offering us cold drinks and a place to get out of the sun!
We never did go to New Orleans, and as bad as the damage was in Biloxi and Gulfport, I cant even imagine what New Orleans looked like on the ground. Many kudos and thanks to all of our correspondents, producers, photographers, technicians, engineers and everyone else we worked with for putting yourselves in harm's way to tell the stories that came out of this deadly storm.