2005: Hurricane Katrina

Chang W. Lee/The New York Times




Stephanie Stokes ’83, Jim Varney ’89, Michael Keller ’05 and
Joshua Norman ’05

Stephanie Stokes, Jim Varney, Michael Keller, Joshua Norman and colleagues shared a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2006 for their courageous and nuanced coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its disastrous aftermath, during which their newspapers, Biloxi’s Sun Herald and the New Orleans Times-Picayune, were essential to the recovery effort.

The [Biloxi] Sun Herald – August 31, 2005
“Storm Takes Baby, Husband from Pass Woman”

By Joshua Norman

PASS CHRISTIAN – Two-year-old Matthew lay wrapped in a dirty white blanket on a small green footstool in the shade of his mother’s porch Tuesday afternoon while Samuel Tart, his father, lay not far away inside their Pass Christian home where the two had tried to stay in during Hurricane Katrina. The rising water had taken their lives.

Matthew’s mom, Geno Veva, spent the storm at Southern Mississippi Regional Center, a facility for mentally handicapped adults in Long Beach where she works.

Veva, 45, said she woke up Tuesday morning with a bad feeling in her gut and rushed home to the Belle Rose subdivision in Pass Christian.

When she saw what happened she started screaming.

“I just wanted some help,” Veva said. “I said, ‘Sir, please, my family is dead!’”

Gerald Ross heard her cry and came running. His house, like every other in the neighborhood, had been trashed by the over 20-foot flood waters and one of his cats had drowned.

Despite his personal pain, he was taken aback by Veva’s story.

“I couldn’t listen to her too long without getting choked up,” Ross, 76, said.

Darlene Mange, another neighbor who decided to stay at home for Hurricane Katrina, also heard her screaming around 11 a.m. and came running. Although Mange and Veva were strangers before the storm, they sat like sisters cradling each other Tuesday afternoon while they waited for some help, any help.

For more than four hours, Veva, Mange and Mange’s son Timothy had been sitting in the scorching sun waiting for help of any kind.

Police, Sheriff’s Department and Fire vehicles had cruised the neighborhood, but none would help her get her son to whatever the next place was that he needed to go.

Veva was so bewildered she did not even know of what funeral homes were nearby.

“I really thought they’d be here for my family, but they won’t,” Veva said.

Note: Geno Veva is spelled ‘Genoveva,’ which was not known at press time.

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