Saturday, September 23, 2006

Emile's Freedom Bell

Day20 Gulfport, Mississippi

We took a wrong turn and found ourselves following some trucks to the end of the road. The trucks continued through a gate into a huge parking lot, and next to the opening in the fence was a little gatehouse. Once we decided that we could go no further, we parked the car so that we could ring the bell next to the deserted waterfront.

It was the first time we would encounter the aftermath of Katrina- one year later. It was a strange mixture of the physical evidence of the enormous destructive force of the water and wind that had ripped through here with the almost complete absence of people. Plenty of moving vehicles and evidence of some commerce, but no people. We would see this again and again as we traveled along the Gulf coast.

While Liz got the bell ready to ring, I walked over to the guardhouse to talk to whoever was in there before a call was placed to the police for trespassing. There was some nice cool air coming from the doorway and a man sat inside. Much to my relief, he was very friendly and interested in what we were doing there. When I asked him if he would come out and ring the bell, he said OK, and we walked over to where Liz was waiting.

Emile introduced himself and then told us about what had happened in the area. Then he rang the bell. He called it his Freedom Bell.

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