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Wedding Brightens Gloom at Storm Shelter

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Wedding Brightens Gloom at Storm Shelter

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Wedding Brightens Gloom at Storm Shelter

Wedding Brightens Gloom at Storm Shelter

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Joe Kirsh and Trenise Williams, the bride and groom. David Schaper, NPR hide caption

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David Schaper, NPR

The wedding took place at the Mississippi Coliseum, with fellow evacuees on hand and belongings of hurricane survivors in the background. David Schaper, NPR hide caption

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David Schaper, NPR

The wedding took place at the Mississippi Coliseum, with fellow evacuees on hand and belongings of hurricane survivors in the background.

David Schaper, NPR

One ray of hope amid painful days on the Gulf Coast: Two evacuees from the hurricane, Joe Kirsh and Trenise Williams, were married while waiting with 1,000 others gathered at the Mississippi Coliseum. Their planned New Orleans wedding was interrupted by Katrina.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.

The WEEKEND EDITION puzzle with puzzlemaster Will Shortz can be heard this week on our Web site, npr.org. Will and I were joined by listener Orin Helbach(ph) from Unityville, Pennsylvania. The answer to last week's puzzle and clues to solve a new puzzle can be heard or read on the Web site. Please submit your answers to the new challenge. We'll pick a winner at random, and we'll be back on the air with the puzzle next Sunday at its usual time.

In the midst of the chaos and calamity of Hurricane Katrina and its horrifying aftermath, there are some spots of good news. Yesterday, Joe Kirsh and Trenise Williams were married in the Mississippi Coliseum in front of about 1,000 other people displaced by the hurricane. NPR's David Schaper was there.

Unidentified Man #1: You got your folks with you?

Ms. TRENISE WILLIAMS (Bride): Yeah, they're coming ...(unintelligible).

Unidentified Man #2: ...(Unintelligible) cousins.

Unidentified Man #1: We'll go off to--This is your fiance?

DAVID SCHAPER reporting:

Wedding days can be crazy enough. Imagine doing it totally on the fly with help from people that just a few days ago you had never met.

Mr. JOE KIRSH (Groom): I'm still in the dark a little, you know. I don't know where we're getting dressed at. I don't know nothing.

SCHAPER: Of course, Joseph Kirsh could be speaking for a lot of grooms just a few hours before a wedding.

Mr. KIRSH: I just--that's all I know. It's going to be over there at the Coliseum.

SCHAPER: The Coliseum is where Kirsh, his fiancee and most of their families have been saying. They had planned to be married last Sunday in New Orleans, but ended up evacuating instead. Williams grabbed the wedding license and the rings, but like most everyone else in this shelter, they've lost just about everything. That's why Red Cross volunteer Greg Wiggers jumped at the chance to help pull the wedding together.

Mr. GREG WIGGERS (Red Cross Volunteer): This was the brightest thing going on right here in the middle of this gloom. This is the brightest spot, is having life go on. Life is going on.

SCHAPER: Wiggers ran to Jaki's bridal shop to pick up tuxes and dresses from store manager Toni Louis(ph).

Ms. TONI LOUIS (Manager, Jacki's): Your wedding day's one of the most important days of your life, and they lost theirs. And I think it's wonderful that the American Red Cross and everybody is putting this together for them. It's wonderful.

Ms. ROCHELLE SMITH: These my dresses?

Mr. WIGGERS: Yes, ma'am.

Ms. SMITH: Thank you, darling.

Mr. WIGGERS: There you are.

Ms. SMITH: I'm Rochelle Smith.

Mr. WIGGERS: Oh, you're Rochelle? OK.

Ms. SMITH: Yes, I'm Rochelle.

SCHAPER: Back outside the Coliseum, Wiggers handed the dresses off to Rochelle Smith, another shelter resident who was homeless in Jackson before the storm. When she overheard the bride-to-be's plight, Smith became the wedding planner, enlisting the support of Red Cross staff and volunteers and hitting up local businesses for donations to help pull the wedding off.

(Soundbite of saxophone playing)

SCHAPER: The bride stepped around the mats, blankets and bedding of other sheltered residents across the arena floor and up an aisle between a hundred or so metal folding chairs. Beautiful flowers, music and her groom greeted her at a makeshift altar and they stood before a husband and wife team of Episcopal ministers and said their vows.

Unidentified Minister: I, Joseph...

Mr. KIRSH: I, Joseph...

Unidentified Minister: ...take thee, Trenise...

Mr. KIRSH: ...take thee, Trenise...

Unidentified Minister: ...to be my wife...

Mr. KIRSH: ...to be my wife...

Unidentified Minister: ...to have and to hold from this day forward...

Now that Trenise and Joseph have given themselves to each other by solemn vows with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of rings, I pronounce that they are husband and wife in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Those whom God has joined together, let know one put asunder. Amen.

Group of People: (In unison) Amen.

SCHAPER: With her new husband standing beside her, the new Mrs. Kirsh thanked everyone in the Coliseum. Everything for the wedding was donated, from the makeup and the stylists to the cake, dinner, a limo and a honeymoon at a secluded cabin nearby. They even have job offers and a possible home waiting when they return. Afterwards, Trenise said it has been a hard week and their future together is still uncertain.

Mrs. TRENISE KIRSH: Well, right now we really don't have any plans on what we're going to be doing, but we do know that we are one now, so everything else will follow. God then led us this far, and he has--is going to lead me further.

SCHAPER: And not even a hurricane could tear that apart.

(Soundbite of saxophone playing)

SCHAPER: David Schaper, NPR News in Jackson, Mississippi.

(Soundbite of clapping; saxophone playing)

HANSEN: And news we're following today, the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Rehnquist died last night in Arlington, Virginia, at the age of 80 after a long battle with thyroid cancer. Rehnquist was one of the longest-serving chief justices in Supreme Court history. He was the conservative leader of the court since he was named chief justice in 1986. His death opens a rare second vacancy on the court. Hearings on Supreme Court nominee John Roberts start Tuesday. Roberts is the appeals court judge who was nominated by President Bush to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, who is retiring.

Justice Rehnquist spent 33 years on the nation's highest court. He presided over the impeachment trial of President Clinton, and ruled with the majority to help settle the 2000 presidential race in favor of President Bush. Rehnquist announced he had thyroid cancer last October. As his illness progressed, many observers expected him to step down, but in July he said he would remain on the court as long as his health would permit.

In New Orleans, officials fear the death toll from Hurricane Katrina could reach into the thousands. US troops are fanning out across the flood-ravaged city taking aid packages to people who are still stranded. The military is also trying to put an end to rampant looting in New Orleans and to quell violence and arson that has spread through the city in recent days.

Full coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath is at our Web site. And you can also read more about the life and career of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and review some of his notable rulings at our Web site, npr.org.

Stay tuned throughout the day for the latest news on the death of Chief Justice Rehnquist and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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