Monday, April 24, 2006

Pearlington, Mississippi


I was fortunate last week to meet a hero. Jeanne Brooks is a native and 30 year teacher/librarian for the Murphy Elementary School in Pearlington, MS. Through the efforts of fellow teachers here, she was able to spend about two weeks in Maine. One week was spent in local elementary schools sharing her Hurricane Katrina experiences with the children. The last week was spent on Peaks Island touring Maine and New Hampshire. An excellent description of her time in the schools can be found in an article in our local newspaper The Forecaster. The web address is:
http://www.theforecaster.net/story.php?storyid=5800

Pearlington, MS was an unincorporated town of about 1,700 receiving it's services from Hancock County. It's community center was the Murphy Elementary School. It's located about five miles inland on a river which empties into the Gulf. After Katrina struck, Pearlington was literally destroyed. Today, about 900 citizens have returned. The school could not be repaired. Yet, it reopened in October with the students being bussed twenty miles to trailers established in Kiln. The students begin their day around 6am and don't get home until after 4pm. Morning naps are not uncommon.

Jeanne Brooks has become the spokesperson for the school but more importantly for her students. Through her efforts she has become the focal point for coordinating numerous volunteer efforts that have sprung up across the country to assist the school. A wonderful source of information on Pearlington and the Murphy school is the Aspen Times. It's web address is: http://www.aspentimes.com/section/PEARLINGTON

Huh?? The Aspen Times? Now, let's see. Maine, Portland, Peaks Island, Aspen, Carbondale, numerous others and Pearlington, MS. I told you she was a hero. Many, many individuals, organizations, churches and entire towns have adopted Pearlington and the Murphy School as projects to become involved in on a person to person and group to person basis. Some of the offers of help have been unrealistic and not extremely helpful but always appreciated. Yet, it falls on local individuals like Jeanne Brooks to sort them all out and get the word out to the various groups as to what's needed and even how to possibly get it there on top of her day job working for her students. For Jeanne, her two weeks here was a chance to meet new students, tell of her experiences and those of her students and just have a chance to look around and see fully intact houses with electricity and running water, standing trees and fully stocked stores she could just walk into at any time, buy what she wanted and walk out.

This will easily be a ten year restoration project for Pearlington and the entire Gulf Coast. While the arguments go on with insurance companies over settlements, while FEMA revises, refines and changes it's own decisions on demolition and rebuilding, the people to people assistance will continue and that's a story that's not being shared enough.

Thank you Jeanne for your efforts. You are a hero and you will be hearing from me.

2 Comments:

Blogger Leslie said...

Yes, Jeanne is a hero to so many she has met and has yet to meet.

She's one of mine and I do everything I can for her anytime she asks!

You can read some about her on my blog at www.PearlingtonRelief.blogspot.com

And ya know something? You and I might be related. My grandmother was a Tiffany. You related to Louis Comfort or any of the Snows? If so, we've got common blood.

Thank you to all who got her out of MS for a brief respite! She needed it SO much!

Leslie Holly

5/22/2006 11:21 PM  
Anonymous Rick in Maine said...

Jeanne has become a real hero and very real person for us in Down East Maine too. I'm so glad we were able to have her up here in April for some badly needed R&R.
She continues to think about and work for the people in Pearlingotn, even as the school situation is changing.

5/23/2006 8:29 AM  

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