August 29th, 2008
09:50 PM ET

Heroes at the height of a hurricane

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/09/03/art.vert.waveland.mayor.tommy.longo.jpg caption="Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo" width=292 height=320]

Mayor Tommy Longo
Waveland, Mississippi

August 28, 2005, Waveland was the fastest growing community in Mississippi.

On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina chose Waveland as ground zero, slamming her with 40 plus feet of tidal surge and battering us with hurricane force winds for more than 12 hours. The result changed lives forever. Ninety-five percent of residential structures were destroyed. One hundred percent of water sewer, gas... destroyed. All 13 City buildings were destroyed. Our three story Historic City Hall, built in 1850, was reduced to a slab.

In essence life ceased to exist as we knew it and our beautiful town was covered in a 15-foot debris field.

Yet during the height of the hurricane, leaders rose to the occasion. Heroes were born and miracles experienced. Twenty Police Officers lashed themselves on top of a tree, taking care of the exhausted and those who couldn’t swim.

We housed seniors and patients with heart conditions on the top of the wastewater plant... We rescued two seniors trapped in an elevator by chopping through a brick wall, saving them before floodwaters could claim them as victims.

First Responders lost everything, professionally and personally, yet remained on the job serving the Community, even to this day.

We as a town lived in our State Park... in FEMA trailers for the first year.

City Hall was a tent, then Quonset hut, and now a complex of trailers.

We have already had to spend $60 million dollars to replace water, gas and sewer... and we are approximately fifty percent complete.

We will break ground this week to rebuild our Housing Authority with the first 80 Senior units being built, and within six months we hope to break ground on all municipal buildings including City Hall, Courts, Fire Stations, Library, and Police Complex.

Has it been tough? You bet! With the help of many volunteers, faith based organizations, sister cities and numerous friends from around the country it has been much easier. And it’s been great for our residents to be remembered.

Many of our citizens are still hurting and we all have a long way to go.

No Mayor could be more proud of his employees or his citizens. They have had a tough fight. Yet each day we go to work restoring the City and restoring lives. Each day we make a little more progress rising above the storm named “Katrina”.

God bless you and remember Waveland in your thoughts and prayers.

Filed under: Hurricane Katrina
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Autumn

    I'm wondering if Hurricane Gustav is going to be anything like katrina ?Better weather conditions or worse.I'm also wondering I don't know why hurricanes facinate me but I am dying to know what the inside of a hurricane looks like .I've tried looking it up online but all I get are images and diagrams.I want to see what it actually looks like or if anyone has ever seen the inside of one.Well i'm like you keeping an eye on Gutav.I also want to send my prayers for that shimp family.If possible in my opinion being that they have kids they should be forced to be evacuated.Thanks for your time be safe and stay out of the way of that thing.My prayers go out to all who are there in New Orleans through all this crasiness.

    September 1, 2008 at 12:48 am |
  2. Chris,21, Charlotte


    I couldnt agree more, dont get me wrong what happened to the people of New Orleans was devestating, but living in a city that is extremely below sea level, a sense of warning and caution should be taken. If my house fell down because of a storm, why doesnt the government rebuild my house at my neighbors expense. I say that, yes it was awful, but if you cant afford to live there or anywhere there is endangerment of natural disasters, you shouldnt live there...period!

    Can we all agree there should be limited deaths in this storm because once again the government has asked people to evacuate, which they did before, but 50,000-80,000 people remained. Now I'm a U.S. Marine who loves my country and every city that resides in it, but people must start being more independent and self- relient, because if not, everyone in this country suffers. This may seem cruel, but ask yourself, " Do I want to pay for John Doe's house if it falls down because of a storm?" And with that being said, how do we make everyone happy?

    August 31, 2008 at 7:22 pm |
  3. Rosie

    Hey Ben,
    What about the 110 BILLION federal dollars Bush mandated to NOLA after Katrina. Not to mention the billions of private dollars and volunteer time donated by private citizens. Im definitly not a Bush fan, but you cant blame the organizational debaucle after Katerina solely on him.

    August 31, 2008 at 6:14 pm |
  4. Lisa

    Good luck to you all. Here in Minnesota, the worst that we get is a tornado or a blizzard. Bad enough, yes, but I cannot imagine having everything that I know destroyed by a hurricaine. I pray that you will all be safe. Please don't try to ride the storm out....your friends and family deserve better than wondering if you are safe.
    God bless you all!

    August 31, 2008 at 2:31 pm |
  5. Jennifer

    Thank you for these stories reminding people that so many Gulf Coast communities actually were "hit" and wiped out by Katrina, and have picked themselves up by the bootstraps and persevered. As opposed to NOLA, which only received a glancing blow, and whose own government corruption and lack of preparation led to the levee failures and citizens' losses. It is a shame that when most people hear "Katrina", they only think of New Orleans, whose constituents were stupid enough to re-elect the mayor that fumbled the last storm. Communities like Waveland and Biloxi suffered so much more from the storm, and didn't even have the tourism industry to pay for their rebuilding - but I don't hear them whining; I hear them triumphant over their adversity.

    August 31, 2008 at 1:39 pm |
  6. Irene

    My prayers are for everybody in New Orleans and especially for you Anderson and your staff to keep it safe.

    August 31, 2008 at 10:42 am |
  7. Jason

    Chris, 21, Charlotte-

    I am not running for President. HOWEVER, I can tell you that if I were, what would change would be that Federal monies would NOT repetitively be spent to shuffle these people that are stupid enough to insist upon moving back to a place that is ALWAYS going to be subject to this type of destruction.

    We can blame alot of things on our Government, but to try to make the weather their fault is a stretch, even by liberal standards.

    They need to get the hell out and NOT GO BACK.

    If they are stupid enough to go back and "rebuild" then I , for one, do not want to contribute to it.

    No one is going to pay for me to have a place to go to when the snow hits up here again and the power goes out. I do not expect it either. I plan for it.

    What is it with Americans nowadays? Always walking around with their hand out looking for a hand-out. Not on my dime.

    August 30, 2008 at 11:30 pm |
  8. Gary, Fairview NC / Formerly From Marathon, FL

    May God Bless and Protect ALL in the Path of Gustav.

    As I view pictures of the New Orleans evacuation I am saddened to note the similarity of those leaving N. O. to those in Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba attempting to flee or recover. The good news here is finally the poor will have an opportunity to exit safely....but again, where shall they go????

    Mr. President, WHERE ARE YOU? ..... AGAIN!

    August 30, 2008 at 10:08 pm |
  9. Freddie Hill

    My comment is For new Orleans evacuation it seems to me that they should be able to use BOTH SIDES OF THE HIGHWAY GOING NORTH, SINCE IT WILL NOT BE USED COMING IN. GOOD LUCK!! AND GOD BLESS!


    August 30, 2008 at 8:02 pm |
  10. Amy Burcks

    Mayor Longo
    My mother was one of the Hurricane Katrina victims in waveland. She lived a few blocks from the beach and I very well know the heartache and devastation you had to endure. We rescued 3 cats from the nursing home my mother was an RN at in Waveland . Her best friend watched her mother drowned as well as her golden retriever be swept away. Until a human being sees the devastation firsthand in person, they will never know the true impact of what Hurricanes bring. My prayers are with you, your staff, and all of the citizens of Waveland. May the hand of God be with all of you through Gustav. I understand that New Orleans was under water but Waveland, Gulfport, Biloxi, and that surrounding area had the most devastation. I think they should have given credit where credit was due.

    August 30, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  11. jon doeringer

    As an SBA worker, I was in Waveland/BSL for 5 months, inspecting damages. I really fell in love with the towns and their humble residents. So many lost so much, yet no one asked me for more than they lost, and many were hesitant to ask for anything. (unlike NOLA)
    The losses were eye-popping, the stories heartbreaking. Everyone had one, and I gladly listened, partly for my interest, partly for their therapy (I was often the first government person they saw at their house).
    I wanted to move and help rebuild the area, but it never happened. I'm guessing most of those people are still waiting for money to rebuild.
    I remember reading about an earthquake in Japan 15? years ago, and how residents were still living in tents 2 years later, and wondered... how could that happen? Now I know. Federal indifference. Maybe Brownie-san was doing a heckuva job their, too.

    August 30, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  12. Kristie

    Much of my family lived 8 miles away from Waveland in the tiny community of Pearlington; the devestation was immeasurable. Not only did we lose physical structures, we lost our entire family history.

    With Gustav bearing down on Katrina's anniversary, I pray for everyone who survived.... please, please, get out of there.

    August 30, 2008 at 3:29 pm |
  13. Christine Smith

    I have family living along the Miss. Gulf Coast they too are in the path of Hurricane Gustav. Are all of your reporters in New Orleans? The sqeaky wheel gets the oil – as usual. I am turning off CNN.

    August 30, 2008 at 3:13 pm |
  14. Freddy

    "This haves and havenot systems have got to change."

    Typical easy way out thinking~ Steal from the working class and give to the looking for Change non-working class....amazing!

    God bless all in the way of this storm....and God, give them the common sense to "think for themselves" and make their own "EARNED" Changes.

    August 30, 2008 at 12:46 pm |
  15. Julie

    Ben, you are an idiot and so are others who think Bush is to blame for Katrina. When are you people going to wake up and realize the Federal Government should not have hold the poor peoples hands? Common sense would have told me to get out, not the president.

    August 30, 2008 at 12:03 pm |
  16. Melanie Stiglianese

    I heard shortly after Katrina hit the gulf coast that quite a few countries offered aid and assistance. I never heard where we took them up on their offer. Did George Bush decline the aid?

    August 30, 2008 at 11:20 am |
  17. Rome

    You're so right Ben. The new govenor of Louisanna is already making preperations in case Gustav hits NOLA. That is what should have been done the first time with Katrina. But when you have a dumb govenor (Blanco) an ever dumber mayor (Nagin) that is what you get. You can't save all of the infrastructure or the houses, but you can get people mobilized to save lives. Blanco and Nagin did none of that. The new govenor will do what's right, and Nagin will probably fight him the whole time.

    August 30, 2008 at 11:00 am |
  18. deborah, OH

    Our prayers are with you & Waveland, Mayor Longo.
    And, thanks to Anderson for keeping us focused on this horribly important hurricane.
    And, thank goodness, for heroes in every tragedy! They come for everywhere, unexpectedly, sometimes, & give us HOPE to go on. We know someone cares!
    PS. Anderson is a hero, even though he would disagree–he probably doesn't even understand why he is a hero.

    August 30, 2008 at 10:45 am |
  19. Johnny

    Does Ben really think that Gustav is Bush's fault? Does the president control the weather or is Ben just another liberal nut case?

    August 30, 2008 at 10:34 am |
  20. Monica

    Everyone seems to forget that Mississippi took the brunt of the storm. We got the eye, the winds and the hell it brought. We are still in the process of rebuilding our community's, beaches and lives. Thank you Mr. Cooper for your remembrance of our state.

    I have been in Mississippi since I was a teenager. My precious stomping grounds around Waveland, Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Long Beach, Gulf Port and Biloxi are still hurting, and rebuilding.

    I now live outside of Jackson, MS with my family. My son and I took a weekend trip to the coast this summer. Even after 3 years, it made me cry to see the beauty of the coastal highway, and everything I remember throughout those communities lost. However, I was proud to see there were people there with new homes and business, strong enough to start anew.

    Our beautiful state will not fail.

    While I was visiting the coast I saw a gentleman who carves dynamic sculptors in the trunks of the fallen and still standing oaks that were lost in Katrina. The sculptures were beautiful and represents our state and the coast of Mississippi. His Dolphins and Turtles were amazing.
    I applaud him for his efforts and the awesome art work he has left for us to enjoy.

    The people of Mississippi have stronger community's and we are a stronger state, we have better ways of dealing with such strong storms and we stick together to make things happen before and after such tragic events.

    August 30, 2008 at 9:38 am |
  21. Isaac Park

    This reminds me of the amazing coverage of the disaster of Hurricane Katrina three years ago.

    Thank you for accurate reporting, which contrasts so sharply with the manufactured stories that so dominate other news stations. The tenacity and relentlessness of reporting is so refreshing.

    August 30, 2008 at 5:55 am |
  22. Maria Santos, JD

    Citizens of New Orleans should learn how to help themselves instead of depending on welfare and their politicians. I grew up in New Orleans and I witnessed kids I grew up with still prefer to rely on their government. Many people in New Orleans decided to stay before Hurricane Katrina arrived because they didn't have anyone to move to, most don't have family connections. The only families they have are their politicians who use them for their votes. The problem continues. Politics detroyed New Orleans, not Hurricane Katrina.

    August 30, 2008 at 3:03 am |
  23. Joseph

    When I think of katrina it pushes more away from being identified as a republican. As a registered republican, I am deeply dissapointed with the Bush administration the way it handled Katrina. I pray and hope that that this gustav will not repeat the same. That alone has convinced me to vote for the democrats. Ignorance is a big problem to the success of any nation.

    August 30, 2008 at 2:25 am |
  24. adriana hebert

    my husband works at island view casino..they will not close until monday..we have a 2 and a half year old..y r they waiting so long?

    August 30, 2008 at 1:56 am |
  25. Dean

    Prayers are continuing that the damage will be minor and no lives lost as the storm approaches the US coastal areas.

    August 30, 2008 at 1:32 am |
  26. Chris,21, Charlotte

    If this storm hits New Orleans, which it is being predicted to do or a state with in the U.S., why aren't our "great nominees" addressing this imminent hazard that may cause American lives and discuss preventive measures they would do under their administration. They both preach change, well what would you change?

    August 30, 2008 at 1:01 am |
  27. Mike in NYC

    Self-reliance, along with absence of blame and entitlement, were most notable in this brief piece.

    If only the rest of the ongoing Katrina saga was like that.

    Best wishes to Mayor Longo and Waveland.

    August 30, 2008 at 12:56 am |
  28. Jake

    I hope New Orleans gets slammed beyond repair this time because we are sick of paying for the foolish idiots that choose to live in a sub sea level part of the coast.

    Flush it, declare it a wetlands, and make it off limits to residential construction.

    August 30, 2008 at 12:52 am |
  29. Gilby-HI

    If there is one good thing that has happened because of Gustav, it is that we don't have to see Sarah Palin's face smileing and all the CNN reporters frowning.
    Was that a tear in Old Joes eye. The older you get the harder it is to hide how you really feel.

    August 30, 2008 at 12:46 am |
  30. Laura

    God bless those who helped after Katrina, and God bless those who helped themselves recover. If another Katrina happens, well, all I can say is, Uncle Sam better not makes asses outta us taxpayers again.

    August 30, 2008 at 12:09 am |
  31. Momma Meg

    Thank you Anderson Cooper for the covergae of Katrina! With the election hpp[la we need to recall the damage done by the Bush administration! This damned the Bush governemnt early and ALL SHOULD remember their carless response. The blood is om their hands, all of the Republican leadership! Shame on them!!

    August 30, 2008 at 12:06 am |
  32. Kevin Keough

    Just three years ago the nation witnessed an Act of Nature, egregious failures at all levels of government, and a profoundly shameful time in American history.

    What can we identify that indicates we aren't headed for a similarly tragic episode ?

    I was fortunate to spend 9 days working with the NOPD during the days and nights 3 years ago. The never told story was our egregious failure to support the men and women responsible to protect, serve, and maintain order in circumstances guys returning from Iraq called far worse than what that left.

    Let's take care of these public servants this time around wherever Gustav strikes.

    August 30, 2008 at 12:05 am |
  33. Tony

    I'm evacuating tomorrow. Bobby Jindal has this state ready for the worst. I'm glad Blanco isn't behind this hurricane response again.

    Now, if the insurance companies will pay for the Gustav damage, we might be able to rebuild quicker.

    August 29, 2008 at 11:59 pm |
  34. Carrie in Virginia

    I am devastated that another storm may be hitting New Orleans -last thime our cousin had a heart attak. They are evacuating on Sunday. I am praying for everyone but I am grateful that this time they seem to be on the ball with the preparations.

    August 29, 2008 at 11:38 pm |
  35. Minerva

    My prayers are with all the people in New Orleans. I pray that God will keep all of you safe.

    Anderson Cooper, thank you for being there in 2005 & thank you for being there now!!! May God keep you & your crew safe!!!

    August 29, 2008 at 11:34 pm |
  36. Annie Kate

    Mayor Longo

    My prayers and best hopes are with Waveland. OF all the coverage of Katrina Waveland was the one that made me cry. I admire you and your town for your endurance and your will to come back as a community. I hope Gustav passes you by this year and any other hurricane that might come calling.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    August 29, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  37. Megan

    It was a South African born professor at the University of Louisiana, if I remember correctly, who suggested that tents be used in emergency situations such as happened during Katrina. My understanding is that this was a suggestion he made before Katrina wreaked her wrath, and that his suggestion was nose-in-the-air "dismissed" with the comment: "This is America ...we don't put people in tents." How ironical when South Africa's tourist industry is kept alive by American tourists who pay an arm and a leg to spend their vacations in that country in ...yes, tents! God forbid that Gustav lands in New Orleans, but has anyone learned yet that tents are better temporary solution in a safe area close to home, rather than waiting for trailers that arrived too late, or being housed in cities where they are not welcomed and alienated from their communities?

    August 29, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  38. Ben

    I hope Gustav does not do any damages but if it does, Please make Bush pay for this one at least!

    August 29, 2008 at 11:22 pm |
  39. Sudhir

    Its fine talking about the anniversary of Katrina – I trust you'll be talking about the Beslan anniversary as well..

    August 29, 2008 at 11:03 pm |
  40. Christine Smith

    Thank you for helping Anderson Cooper remember the devestation Katrina brought to the Miss. Gulf Coast. Hurricane Rita devestated Beaumont and Port Arthur. The people of New Orleans were not alone in their suffering. Mississippi continues to rebuild with courage and determination. They have not come back from Katrina either.

    August 29, 2008 at 10:59 pm |
  41. Brenda Harris

    My Prayers are with you.

    I Think GOD is trying to tell us something.

    We have got to be our Brothers and Sisters keepers.

    This haves and havenot systems have got to change.

    It affects us all.

    August 29, 2008 at 10:59 pm |
  42. Eileen

    Our thoughts and prayers are with NOLA and the Gulf Coast. I cannot imagine watching Gustav heading toward them. We must pull together and stand with NOLA. We need to elect Obama/Biden so that our cities are not left to drown.

    August 29, 2008 at 10:42 pm |
  43. Richard Wilt

    I posted this on the wrong blog. Sorry, my prayers go out to anyone that may be affected by Gustav. I'm hoping for the best.

    August 29, 2008 at 10:31 pm |
  44. pati mc., camp hill, pa

    Mayor Longo you will surely all be in our thoughts and prayers.

    God Bless you sir and all of the good people of Waveland. May all of your heartache and loss never be forgotten.

    I must say that rarely in this day and age do you hear a boss praise his employees so highly. It is refreshing and surely well deseved.

    Hoping for the best for y'all in the path of Gustav. Please stay safe.

    August 29, 2008 at 9:57 pm |