Hurricane Katrina

PEARLINGTON: Life here is sheer drudgery

PEARLINGTON - There's not much left of the Oak Harbor subdivision - or the entire town on the Mississippi-Louisiana state line, for that matter - but a handful of residents on Jacksonville Drive are forging ahead.

Many of them are rebuilding homes themselves, or with help from church volunteer groups. They're staying in FEMA trailers or tents, and it's taking its toll.

Andy and Katherine Sisler live in a FEMA trailer with their three young children. Earlier this month, Katherine had to keep an eye on every move of her 4-year-old daughter, Aliyah. Some of the building supplies stacked in a neighbor's yard have sharp edges. A lot of debris that littered the neighborhood six months ago has been hauled away, but there's still plenty of clutter.

And there are other concerns.

"There's stray cats everywhere," Katherine Sisler said. "In our little bubble, this house, we're doing better, but in Pearlington, it's about the same."

Brian Danese actually moved to Pearlington from Texas after Hurricane Katrina so he could go to work as a Seventh-Day Adventist preacher at two Coast churches. His brother, Jonathan, has returned to his job at a nursing home in Slidell. Jonathan Danese saved the lives of many Oak Harbor residents with a small fishing boat.

The elevated house in which a couple dozen people took refuge has been sold, and a statue of the Virgin Mary sits in its driveway.

"A lot of people here are discouraged," Sisler said. "A lot of people don't have much money. They're worried they won't make the February deadline (for vacating FEMA trailers)."

Henry Sisler, Katherine's father-in-law, is a retired contractor from Washington state. He admires the work of the church volunteers but said life in Pearlington is sheer drudgery.

"We're leaving on May 20," he said. "I'm wore out."

What Katrina did

Damage to Pearlington was widespread and devastating. No businesses were open, and scores of washed-out cars littered the streets. Residents who survived were stranded without resources for days. The small town is on the Mississippi-Louisiana state line.

The series

The Sun Herald this month continues its 30 Communities in 30 Days series, which looks at how area neighborhoods are recovering from Hurricane Katrina. We will update these stories every six months.