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Mississippi family had to leave a ‘war zone’

Mississippi family had to leave a ‘war zone’
Mississippi family had to leave a ‘war zone’
Dan and Christine Garrett and their grandson, Tyler O'Neal, 7, are staying at the Baymont Inn in Corydon this week. (Photo by Randy West)

‘It’s definitely the benchmark of all the storms we’ve ever witnessed,’ said Dan Garrett of Ocean Springs, Miss., a coastal town about 10 miles east of Biloxi.
Dan and his wife Christine and other relatives fled the town in time to avoid a direct hit.
They always leave home when hurricanes come, but none before has brought such devastation. Much of what they called home no longer exists ‘ residences, businesses, hospitals, schools, shops. ‘It looks like a war zone,’ said Dan.
Salt water rushed into the Garrett home about a mile inland from the Gulf Coast. The corrosive water from nearby marshlands measured some four feet high in their home. Their insurance doesn’t cover water damage from any source, said Dan. Because their house was not in a flood plain they did not qualify for federal flood insurance.
When they went back home to check the house, they found salt water waist deep and a new GMC truck utterly ruined in the garage, Garrett said. They could not stay.
Dan, 58, and Christine, 60, married 27 years, said they have been welcomed with open arms here, and traveling across the South as well. Wal-Mart in Madison, Ala., wouldn’t accept payment for clothes; Holiday Inn Express served dinner free that night to every Gulf Coast region.
When the Garretts arrived here Sunday evening, a church had delivered their meal. Trying to look to the future immediately after the storm is unsettling. ‘The feeling you get ‘ there’s no hope; you feel helpless,’ said Dan. ‘There was no one to say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do today … you will be OK.’ Helpless and hopeless is not a good feeling.’
He is a retired chemical engineer, and she works at the hospital business office. Or did. Whether that remains, whether the hospital is safe, is questionable.
They are in Corydon because a daughter and son-in-law, April and Larry Miller, are here. Their house, though, is already bulging with three children and April is recovering from surgery, so staying there isn’t an option right now.
The Ocean Springs home of daughter Jolie Garrett and her son, Tyler, is more damaged than the parents. It was invaded by salt water and mud. They, too, are staying temporarily at the Hampton.
Jolie is a resilient type. She has worked weekends as a registered nurse, but her primary job is with a bank in Pascagoula.
Most unbearable, said Christine, was hearing that a truck loaded with water, food supplies and a generator, was turned back at a checkpoint set up by the government. Especially since there was no help from the government, the Garretts said it hurt that no one else was allowed to bring them help.