Who will help Mississippi?

What has been taking place in New Orleans over the past week in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the busted levees no doubt is high drama. New Orleans is also a large American city, currently ranked 34th in population nationally if I am not mistaken. But New Orleans is also a unique and distinctive place among American cities. It’s a true American melting pot of cultures — French, Italian, Irish, African, Spanish, you name it. It is the jazz spot and the party spot of the United States. So no one should really question why so much news coverage has focused on the unfolding tragedy that has been New Orleans.

But across the state line to the east, Katrina has just blown an entire state’s coastline all to hell. If I didn’t recognize the Mississippi Gulf Coast because of all its casinos and growth over the past decade, I would surely not recognize it now because the hurricane blew so much of the area away. So I hope that the news media does not let such a compelling story as the saga of New Orleans obscure that disaster has struck with a vengeance on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Although it is no megapolis at 70,000 people, Gulfport is Mississippi’s second largest city. Along with Biloxi and outlying areas Harrison County has almost 200,000 people. Biloxi and Gulfport have become quite the tourist Mecca in recent years because of the casino industry. But it’s always been a nice place for a tourist to stop and enjoy the man-made beaches on Mississippi Sound and see tranquil sights like the oak tree in the picture above.

A real tragedy is going on in Mississippi where Katrina struck, especially on the coast. We need to keep that in mind. It led Stan Tiner, editor of the Knight-Ridder paper in Biloxi, the “Sun Herald” to make a plea for his area’s needs:

“Medical needs, food, water, gasoline — are all needed and now. Some say our plight coupled with the unbelievable state of degradation in New Orleans represents the greatest humanitarian crisis in American history. This has led us to profoundly understand our dependence on others. In this moment of need, we wonder who will help us? We are even so bold as to send a message from the lost cities of the Mississippi Coast: Will you help us?”

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