Under Surge, Under Siege

Under Surge, Under Siege: The Odyssey of Bay St. Louis and Katrina

Ellis Anderson
Joe Tomasovsky
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Under Surge, Under Siege
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 2010 Eudora Welty Book Prize and the Mississippi Library Association's Non-fiction Author's Award for 2011, Under Surge, Under Siege shows how Hurricane Katrina tore into Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, raking away lives, buildings, and livelihoods in a place known for its picturesque, coastal views; its laid-back, artsy downtown; and its deep-dyed southern cordiality. The tragedy also revealed the inner workings of a community with an indomitable heart and profound neighborly bonds. Those connections often brought out the best in people under the worst of circumstances. In Under Surge, Under Siege, Ellis Anderson, who rode out the storm in her Bay St. Louis home and sheltered many neighbors afterwards, offers stories of generosity, heroism, and laughter in the midst of terror and desperate uncertainty.Divided into two parts, this book invites readers into the intimate enclave before, during, and after the storm. "Under Surge" focuses on connections between residents, then demonstrates how those bonds sustained them through the worst hurricane in U.S. history. "Under Siege" documents the first three years of the grinding aftermath, detailing the unforeseen burdens of stress and depression, insurance scandals, and opportunists that threatened to complete the annihilation of the plucky town.A blend of memoir, personal diary, and firsthand reportage, Under Surge, Under Siege creates a compelling American testament to the strength of the human spirit.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-503-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)

    The invisible net of fellowship that broke the horrific fall of my town was woven long before Katrina. The knitting of that marvelous mesh was begun three hundred years before by the mariners and merchants and fishermen who first clustered their cottages on the Mississippi coast at the Bay of St. Louis. During those three centuries, the hurricanes that periodically hurtled in from the Gulf merely strengthened the weave, teaching hard lessons about the benefits of solidarity. In “the Bay,” the skills required for a flourishing community—courage, tolerance, and humor in adversity—were passed down to children like a...


    • PART ONE Storm Journal
      (pp. 3-48)

      THERE IS A MAN LIVING in my driveway now, and I don’t find that at all unusual. He makes his bed in the back of his small SUV and sleeps there with his little dog. Many afternoons he can be found sitting behind the wheel, reading the paper, his shitz su nestled on his lap. He calls his car “home.” It’s part of the new vocabulary that’s emerging on the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina.

      The man is the grandfather of Hannah, who’s nine years old and one of my new residents. She and her parents stay at my house...

    • PART TWO The Story of Bay Town Inn
      (pp. 49-68)

      AUGUST 29, 2005 Nikki Nicholson straddled the oak branch, lying face down and hugging it with all her might. Her small dog, Maddy, was tucked beneath her stomach like a baby. She pressed the dog closer to her, wondering how they’d possibly survive. Each wave that washed over the tree threatened to tear them from the limb and drag them into the seething surge. Nikki had always figured she’d be killed in a plane crash. Now, it looked like all those hours of airport anxiety had been wasted. In a bizarre twist of fate, she was caught in a tree,...

    • PART THREE Storm Journal
      (pp. 69-85)

      THIS PARTICULAR KATRINA LEGEND is short, but it speaks volumes for our town. It begins four long days after the storm, when the National Guard finally arrived in the Bay. The commander strode into the fire station to find Eddie Favre, the mayor of Bay St. Louis. Eddie’s cousin is the famous football player Brett Favre, but Katrina hadn’t cared about connections with celebrities, nor had she shown respect for authority. Our mayor’s house had been flattened by the storm like thousands of others. He’d moved into the fire department and camped out on the floor.

      The commander and his...

    • PART FOUR Robyn’s Story
      (pp. 86-113)

      Imagine a woman alone. She’s trapped in her apartment by poisonous floodwaters with a cat as her only companion. Communication isn’t possible, so she can’t call for help. The one radio station she can tune in tells stories of desperate people around her dying from starvation or bullet holes or from drowning in their own attics. She believes her father in a nearby town may have been killed by a tidal wave. The sounds of helicopters relentlessly remind her that she’s smack in the middle of a war zone. She’s caught in a city that’s been wounded so badly that...

    • PART FIVE Storm Journal
      (pp. 114-152)

      WEDNESDAY EVENING, AUGUST 31 Three nights after the storm, Jan and I sat alone on my candlelit porch. The eerie, unrelenting darkness hid the desolation from our sight, but we could sense the enormity of the destruction that surrounded us. It stretched out in every direction, just beyond the tiny halo of our candle. I could imagine the heartache from countless losses gathering strength in those fields of debris, beginning to take on the shape of despair. I saw it as some powerful and malicious creature out there in the dark—watching us and licking its lips, waiting for the...


    • PART SIX Storm Journal
      (pp. 155-193)

      SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 2005 Three hours north of Bay St. Louis, I began seeing signs of damage along the interstate. As I drove back toward the coast, I passed groves of downed trees, exit ramps without signage, and billboards that had careened to earth like paper kites. Eleven days before, it’d been dark when Bo and I had passed through this same stretch on our way to Tennessee, so I hadn’t witnessed this extended path of Katrina. She had thrashed her way inland further than I could have imagined.

      As the devastation reeled past the windshield, I recalled the days...

    • PART SEVEN Revelations
      (pp. 194-246)

      While the coast thrashed in pain, Katrina’s bloodletting attracted speculators and opportunists from afar. Disguised as sweet-talking do-gooders, some counterfeit contractors preyed on homeowners desperate to rebuild. They’d insist on a handsome deposit—often withdrawn from depleted life savings—and then disappear. Community chaos and fractured communications worked to the advantage of these vermin; sometimes they’d have the gall to scurry into an adjacent neighborhood and pull the same con.

      Some stole from us outright, looting the last surviving keepsakes of survivors or pilfering building materials from construction sites. My friend Jan lived in Pittsburgh while she tried to oversee...

    • PART EIGHT Storm Journal
      (pp. 247-262)

      MIDMORNING, MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2008 The windows of my kitchen had not been boarded over, so I looked towards the back corner of the yard where the thick bamboo grove bowed towards the ground, humbled by the power of the gale. In the adjoining room, my neighbor Gary shouted into his cell phone, straining to be heard over the racket of the storm. When he signed off, he walked into the kitchen, stepping over the towels we’d spread on the floor to sop up puddles. My new roof had already begun to leak.

      “I just heard from a friend who’s...

    (pp. 263-266)
    (pp. 267-271)