Former Manila residents victim of Katrina
John and Pat Ellis of Waveland, Miss., had no idea on Friday, Aug. 26, they were leaving their home for the last time.
The two grew up in Manila leaving their home state for a career in the U.S. Navy. John retired from the Navy in 1986. Pat is the daughter of Elvina Bollinger and the late M.L. Bollinger and John is the son of Elizabeth Ellis and the late John Ellis, all of Manila.
"It was time for us to settle down," Pat said.
The family bought their home, a U-shaped brick house, in Waveland in 1987. Pat said it was close to the beach and she loved it.
"There was a nine foot cement path running along the beach for two and a half miles," she said. "It was one of my favorite places to walk and ride my bicycle."
Waveland is located 20 miles west of Biloxi and 15 miles east of the Mississippi/Louisiana border. The Ellis house was on a 1-1/2 acre lot.
"Our neighborhood has a lot of retired people and summer homes for residents of New Orleans," she said. "Some of our neighbors have lost their homes at Waveland and in New Orleans."
The Ellises had been in Alaska visiting their daughter, Jonna, and they returned home to Mississippi.
"We took three hours, mowed our yard, checked on our house, and left for Jonesboro to play in a benefit golf tournament for the Matt Ellis Scholarship fund," Pat said. "We left before people were told to evacuate the area due Hurricane Katrina, which was in the Gulf and coming toward land. When we found out what was going on, we called our neighbor. We thought about driving back to Mississippi to get our truck but we were informed we couldn't get back in. We lost our truck and our house, but we are still better off than a lot of people. We do not live in the flood zone so flood insurance is not mandatory. However, we do have flood insurance."
Pat has been viewing satellite pictures on the internet of her town, neighborhood and her property.
"It is all gone," she said. "The water surge got the homes and businesses. We have not heard much about our area because it is almost inaccessible. The bridge coming from I-10 603 into Waveland is out. I don't think they are letting anyone in."
The power is down and she has not been able to make contact with all of her friends. She has managed to get in touch with a couple through text messages on her cell phones. Her daughter, Brittany, in Jacksonville, Fla., has been keeping her informed when she finds their friends and neighbors.
"There have been deaths in the area but we haven't got an accurate count yet," Ellis said.
Her sisters-in-law, Judy and Tappy Ann, both live in Mississippi.
"We have been in touch with them and they were fortunate and only suffered minor property damage," she said. "Judy and her husband were here last weekend but he needed to get back to work and went home. They spent time in the shelter riding out the storm."
Pat said she has always evacuated when there was a threat of hurricanes.
"Very few have come through our area but I didn't mind leaving when we knew there was a possibility," she said. "Usually, we had more warning time than we had with this one. This time the Gulf water was 90 degrees, much hotter than usual."
She said one of her classmates, Steven Delbridge, lives in Orange Grove, near Gulfport.
"We met a couple of years ago and visited. Like me, he really loved the area. I heard they lost their home, also."
Hurricane Katrina has been classified as one of the worst disasters in history.
"This will cost more than all four hurricanes last year put together," she said. "I feel like the casinos will build back, probably on land instead of water. The casinos employed 14,000 people. A lot of other jobs were related to the casinos. The Stennis Space Center is closed. I think it is being used somewhat as a shelter."
The Ellises plan to go to their home site this week.
"I'm ready to go and get it over with," she said. "I want to see if there is anything that can be saved. We have 40 years of memories there. I think of my family photographs, my wedding ring, and the little things."
They have been dividing their time between their home in Mississippi and their condominium in Virginia Beach. Mr. Ellis works civil service there. He will retire in a couple of years and they will have to make their decision to rebuild or not.
Mrs. Ellis encourages everyone to help the people any way they can or by giving to the Red Cross or the Salvation Army.
"I feel sorry for the people that are left with nothing," she said.