Now I’m coming home: Katrina victim visits her rebuilt home church

By SAMANTHA HURST / STAFF WRITER

COLUMBIANA – Pounding winds and torrential rain from Hurricane Camille brought the St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Pass Christian, Miss., to shambles for the first time in 1969. Then, in 2005 Hurricane Katrina’s might destroyed what had been rebuilt just thirty years earlier.

Fay Whitaker, who now attends Columbiana First United Methodist Church, worshipped at St. Paul’s almost all her life until Katrina washed away much of her church and her home.

“I really had no time to mourn,” Whitaker said. “It’s difficult when you loose stuff and you don’t have time to mourn; you just have to be up and keep going.”

Whitaker said she feels like she has weathered multiple storms – just as her hometown church has for decades – only hers have occurred in just a manner of a few years.

After Katrina, Whitaker’s life became a cycle of moving and disappointment. She traveled with her mother to Atlanta where they stayed in dormitories, then to Michigan to stay with family. Eventually FEMA told Whitaker she would have to move back down south to Birmingham. When she did move into an apartment and felt she was getting settled in, a fire ripped through, destroying the complex. For one last time, she packed up what very little she had and moved to Columbiana.

“Just like he saved me and my mom in Hurricane Katrina, God worked it out. I don’t know how else to put it. He sent people to help me,” Whitaker said of the men and women at the Columbiana’s UMC.

Whitaker got the chance to make the difficult journey back to St. Paul’s for the first time since Katrina Oct. 14. The church’s congregation, volunteers and fellow church members gathered to celebrate yet another rebuilding.

“It was good to be back and to see some of the relatives, but it was bad ’cause the memories were bad and I would have flashbacks where I would remember the night of Katrina. It became extremely emotional,” Whitaker said.

She said many just weren’t able to make the journey.

“We’re trying but it’s very difficult for the members to come back because many, like me, want to come home but they are stuck in other places,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker said despite the kindness she found here, one day she would like to move back home to Pass Christian and her home church of St. Paul’s UMC