August 31st, 2008
10:22 PM ET

On the last plane to Gulfport: "I don't want to do this again."

Kathleen Koch
CNN Correspondent

“We’re trying to get there, babe!” Optimistic words from a cheerful couple behind me on one of the last planes to the Gulf Coast. Unlike most flights these days, this plane to Gulfport, Mississippi has plenty of empty seats. And there is an easy camaraderie among this determined band of travelers.

Mark and Julie Kael are racing back from a trip to Europe to check on their daughter and newborn grandchild who’ve evacuated to Lacombe, Louisiana. The Kaels lost their home in St. Bernard Parish in Katrina. The highways out of Louisiana are all on contra flow now. But Mark and Julie know the back roads. “We’ll make it,” they insist. “After what we’ve been through, this is nothing.”

There’s meteorologist Mike Seidel from the Weather Channel. He’s a popular guy on this plane. The other passengers prod him for details on where Gustav is going and how bad it could be on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Best friends Joy, Starr and Marsha chat, smiling. They had to cut short their “girls’ weekend” in Fort Lauderdale because of Gustav. Joy and Starr share a ground-floor apartment in D’Iberville that was flooded in Katrina. Their plan this time? Get their cats Simba and Oreo and ride out the hurricane at Marsha’s house north of I-10.

And there are men and women in uniform. The military were the star performers in Katrina. So they are a comforting presence.

Despite the threat of Gustav looming offshore, the spirit on this flight is different than the one I took to the Gulf Coast three years ago to cover Katrina. Then, there was a greater sense of foreboding. Now, this is a plane of survivors.

We land, the flight attendant as we deplane telling everyone, “be safe.”
Before we get our bags, I see Joy standing alone, pensive.

“I sat in the back of the plane crying my eyes out,” she confesses. Not that she’s complaining, she insists. “We’re blessed. But I don’t want to do this again.”

Filed under: Hurricane Gustav
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Nancy


    Obviously you haven't spent much time in the city of New Orleans, or you wouldn't have made such a comment. Take some time and do some research as to just how many products you use come through the city of New Orleans! Do you tell people who have lost their houses from wildfires not to rebuild, do you tell the victims of mud slides that they shouldn't build on the side of a hill?
    When this is over, take a vacation in New Orleans, the people will welcome you with open arms, regardless of how narrow minded you might be because they are GOOD people.

    September 1, 2008 at 7:18 am |
  2. Thea

    By that logic, you shouldn't build cities on any coastal area. You also shouldn't build cities on or near fault lines. Or in sprawling land-locked areas where tornadoes form. Or too far north where blizzards could hit. Or in arid regions because of sand storms.

    There are dangers everywhere, Matt. While building a city in a "bowl" may not be the safest place, it sure isn't the most dangerous.

    September 1, 2008 at 3:30 am |
  3. Kammy

    New Orleans is the bowl. Gulfport is in Mississippi and it's nothing like a bowl. Look at a map before you comment.

    September 1, 2008 at 1:05 am |
  4. Mark

    nola is not a city in a bowl.

    August 31, 2008 at 11:46 pm |
  5. Tim

    Easy for you to criticize eh Matt ?

    I can only assume you have no TIES to this city or its inhabitants !

    How about some compassion for folks who are about to lose it all .......AGAIN !

    August 31, 2008 at 11:39 pm |
  6. gretchen

    you also shouldn't build them on faultlines, places that are supposed to burn every year or on islands that will be flooded when waters rise but where has that stopped anyone

    August 31, 2008 at 11:33 pm |
  7. Pam

    I think that we all should keep everyone in the path of this storm in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you.

    August 31, 2008 at 11:17 pm |
  8. Suebob

    Stay safe. I'm sorry you have to do it again, but your reporting from Katrina was groundbreaking. All the best to you and your crew.

    August 31, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  9. Liz

    How about Lake Charles? All we've been hearing about is New Orleans. There are evacuees from other cities that are anxious to hear about their city, Lake Charles. The weather girl was asked about other cities and she avoided the question. Can we not focus so much on New Orleans and talk about other cities please. There was a hurricane three years ago that hit Louisiana and that was called Rita. It hit Lake Charles and to this day we hear about 1% of that hurricane.

    August 31, 2008 at 10:57 pm |
  10. Kera

    Could someone please tell us how the Bay/ Waveland area in MS is fairing so far and what the forecast looks for them through Gustav?

    August 31, 2008 at 10:53 pm |
  11. Gregory

    Hi Matt,

    You should realize that knowing that New Orleans was in a bowl in the 1600's when it was settled makes you line of reasoning a bit absurd. Consider also that you are speaking of one of the oldest cities in the US, which has an entire history and culture of which you must suffer at least a mild level of ignorance. New Orleans has always been a critical US city regardless of its disadvantageous geological situation. It's not going anywhere. When our government decides to invest the type of resources in it the way the Dutch have effectively protected their entire country from floods for many years, many critical mouths will be shut. Maybe even yours!

    August 31, 2008 at 10:50 pm |
  12. Ultra

    To Matt, who says "This is why you don’t build cities in a bowl.":

    Obviously, you don't know the geographical history and historical significance of the city of New Orleans, nor do you have the ability or compassion to appreciate it. I suggest you look up War of 1812, Battle of New Orleans. Also look at the largest cities of industrial America at the turn of the 20th Century. Read about English Turn and Mardi Gras.

    The city wasn't always a "bowl". The city gradually sank over many years and continues to do so. Major cities in the US have grown over the years, and New Orleans is no exception.

    There are problems, but every city has their own problems. Rather than bash, why don't you suggest a solution for New Orleans? New Orleans actually has some technological marvels. You can't find any other city like New Orleans with pumping stations and levees.

    Understand, then write.

    August 31, 2008 at 10:50 pm |
  13. Rachel

    New Orleans is very rich with history and culture but how many times and how can our country keep rebuilding this city and not even complete the rebuilding and millions of dollars spent in this city only to have it destroyed again. Much to be said for a large city below sea level, sitting below a very large lake and lie along the Mississippi river, and oh I did mention it is below sea level. Time to move this city back into solid ground.

    August 31, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  14. ann

    One thing I keep getting the creeps about is when I see Gustav progressed on tv I see the beginning of hanna progressing on the screen. What do people say about the storm behind this one. if Gustav path could be wiggly how likely is it a few days after the first devistation the second storm hits.

    August 31, 2008 at 10:44 pm |
  15. Amanda

    The city predates the bowl, you idiots, for the millionth time.

    August 31, 2008 at 10:42 pm |
  16. Sara

    Republicans were trying to restore their lost credibility in Katrina relief, by having the convention in New orleans.

    They are being Punished by God for playing such bad, inhuman politics.

    Poor Millions in the area who are affected because of Republicans, Bush and McCain.

    August 31, 2008 at 10:35 pm |
  17. Matt

    This is why you don't build cities in a bowl.

    August 31, 2008 at 10:28 pm |