Forgive this off-topic post, please. Yesterday, I took the day off for a little fun and recreation. We took a day-trip down to the Gulf Coast to drop a few quarters in some slot machines, do a little Outlet Mall shopping, and dine on casino buffet food. I had fun, but that enjoyment was tempered with a sad dose of reality.
As you probably remember, I recounted my experience with Hurricane Katrina two years ago. That experience, coupled with subsequent challenges over the two years since, has left me numb to it all. At some point, we tend to just "get on with life" and do whatever needs to be done to continue on. That attitude, while healthy I think, does often prevent us from really seeing some of the reality around us.
Yesterday was the first time I'd been to the Gulf Coast (Biloxi and surrounding towns) since the hurricane. Of course, I knew that the entire "strip" had basically been demolished by the storm. But as the last 2 years have moved along, I'd assumed that rebuilding had begun and things had probably started to return to normal.
I was wrong.
Sure, there's been some recovery. Two or three casinos are up and running. But the reality is that miles and miles and miles and endless freaking miles of the shoreline "strip" are barren wastes of rubble. Still. Two years later. Endless amounts of empty land littered with broken concrete stretches on in a sad display of our inability to deal with such massive destruction. Occasionally, I saw a sign that somehow lived through the storm, explaining what that particular pile of rubble used to be. One such pile was once an Outback Steakhouse. But those signs were rare. Although I've driven that shoreline many times in the past, I couldn't remember what all of those piles of concrete used to represent. Was that one a church? That one a mom and pop store? That one a souvenir shop? I wasn't sure. But the endless emptiness spoke volumes about the amount of business that was gone...the amount of homes that were destroyed...and the amount of lives that were forever altered in just a few hours time.
I spent some money yesterday. I gambled some of it away. I used some of it to buy clothes and food. I gave a little bit to what I assume must be a struggling economic situation there. I wish I could have given more. But just showing up and pretending for a day that one could still have fun as a tourist is something that area needs. Hundreds of businesses are gone now. But some have returned. And those provide enjoyment still. If you can take a little time off to get there, please do. It's still fun. And your dollars can help an area that still struggles to deal with the reality forced upon them two years ago.