Gerry Hall: "…out here was worse than New Orleans."

Last night, I interviewed Mrs. Gerry Hall, 72 years old, African American native of New Orleans, who has lived in the house that she owns in the Upper Ninth Ward for forty years. The house flooded badly and was then further ruined by mold.

One of Mrs. Hall’s daughters, Violetta, has been living on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi for the last six years. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Violetta Hall was living in a coastal apartment complex in Long Beach at 101Cheri Ln.

Several years ago, Gerry Hall began to have health complications with congestive heart failure and diabetes and had to leave her job of twenty years at a check cashing place in New Orleans. After about two years of being unable to work, Mrs. Hall began coming to stay with Violetta on weekends and working as a cook at an assisted living facility in Gulfport. As a result, Mrs. Hall was in Long Beach with her daughter the last weekend of August, when Katrina arrived. Gerry Hall, Violetta Hall, and Violetta’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandson, all spent about four weeks together in an unofficial shelter in the Quarles Elementary School in Long Beach.

I interviewed Mrs. Hall in her FEMA trailer in a camp of FEMA trailers at the A-1 RV Park & Campground in Pass Christian, MS.

Everything on the beach …. Violetta’s house—nothin’ but slab. Her car—gone. Found her car where my grand daughter’s livin’ room was—where there’s nothin’ but slab, I mean nothin’… You pass there, you never know a house was there or apartments was there….

I’ll be 73 years old in June, and this is the worst. I was in Betsy, in New Orleans in ’65, and I thought that was bad. And then after came Camille, went to Mississippi. But this here was the worst. And then New Orleans, we had all that flood, but at least a lot of the people’s houses are standin’. But to me, out here was worse than out there …

They say, “you from New Orleans. Ooh yeah, you’re about all that in the Superdome.” That’s all they talk about. They never talk about the flood … or how bad the houses are or anything like that.

But to me out here was worse than New Orleans. It was devastating. The whole Gulf Coast. The whole beach. Even now, when you pass on the beach. It’s pitiful. All these big mansions. It’s nothin’—nothin’ but gravel, nothin’ but splinters of wood. The whole beach is just torn up. Even now, we passed there a couple of days ago—nothin’. That beach is just gone.

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Day 2: Bay St. Louis, Diamondhead, Gulfport, Longbeach, Pass Christian (Outline Version)

I was in the middle of writing about Day 2 last night, but it got very late, so here’s the outline of what I did yesterday (1/23). Today I should have some more time to catch up on writing and, if I can get on high speed internet access, posting many more photos.

Mid morning – early afternoon
1. Bay St. Louis coastline: the entire coastline of vacation homes and other buildings wiped out completely.

2. Diamondhead Yacht Club: surrounding the yacht club were three story homes built along canals that come off the St. Louis Bay. All that was left of the houses were portions of their wood frames.

Late afternoon – 10:00 pm
1. Gulfport: brief tour with Gayle Tart, Carland Baker, Sam Edward Arnold, and Billy Morgan of the African American neighborhoods: Turnkey, Turkey Creek, Central Gulfport. Saw historic African American St. Paul AME Church, est. 1907, now severely damaged, in Central Guflport, on the corner of 21st St and 32nd Ave.

2. Long Beach: Beach front destroyed, like Bay St. Louis . Went to the location of Carland Baker’s former home.

3. Pass Christian:

  • Drove along the decimated coast line.
  • Met white Christian volunteers from Washington State and Ohio who were in MS through a program set up by the Delta Ministries. They were all working to clean up and restore the plant nursery of Nancy Adams, 80 years old, white.
  • Next door, as you head up Davis Ave, away from Rt. 90, is the Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church, a Black church which took water nearly up to its ceiling rafters. Met the Pastor, Harry Toussaint, the Deacon, Robert Stewart, and other congregation members who were working on restoration of the Church.
  • Went further north on Davis Road and documented some more of the devastation. Saw what was left of Labats Restaurant, an historic African American establishment.
  • Went to the home of Gayle Tart’s late brother, who died with his two year old son inside their home, after the house filled with water during Katrina.
  • Visited FEMA trailer park, housed in the A-1 RV Park. Two interviews with African American storm survivors: 1) Violetta Hall with Carland Baker, Sam Edward Arnold, and Billy Morgan 2) Mama Gerry Hall, mother of Violetta. Violetta Hall told of her family’s experiences surviving the storm. She and the other three men talked about some of the current issues around living in FEMA trailers, federal assistance, and employment. Violetta’s mother is from the Upper 9th Ward of New Orleans and was in Mississippi with her daughter the weekend when Katrina hit. The elder Mrs. Hall used to have a weekend job at the assisted living facility where Violetta worked full time, in Long Beach. Mrs. Hall spoke about the damage to her home in New Orleans and her strong desire to return there. Mrs. Hall also emphasized that many of her friends and neighbors, like her, are actively rebuilding and trying to return home.

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