RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
Some survivors of Hurricane Katrina are returning to damaged homes and businesses, and some are finding complete devastation. In Waveland, Mississippi, a quaint street of shops and trees called Coleman Avenue is nothing but rubble. Shop owner Kathy Pinn is among those who came back yesterday as her daughter Betsy Balder(PH) was combing through the ruins. NPR's Howard Berkes was there and sent us this audio postcard.
Ms. BETSY BALDER (Evacuee): This is Waveland, Mississippi. My name is Betsy Balder. This was my mom's house. Actually, she had a little shop here. It's called That Cute Little Shoppe. And she was considered the queen of Coleman Avenue.
HOWARD BERKES reporting:
What are you doing here right now?
Ms. BALDER: My parents are--they just got in town. They haven't even been here yet. We were hoping we would find them here and help them collect a few things. We all left. We all thought we were coming back, so we left with virtually nothing, and so we're trying to find just something, something left of our lives. And I'm still looking for my baby grand. It's out there somewhere. And that's my goal, to find that as well, and...
BERKES: What's here now?
Ms. BALDER: You know what? It is so unrecognizable. Even for somebody who's lived here for years, to come back and see this, and my sister told me--she goes, `When you get to your house, you're not going to know it's your house. You're not going to know that's where your house was.' And that's exactly what it is. There was one landmark out by the beach, the veterans monument, and that's how we knew this was Coleman Avenue. I think it's going to be a long road, but I think this is such a passionate town that people are going to be back. People want to come back. People want to be a part of it and rebuild. It's going to be bigger and better. We're going to bring everybody together. It's a small town, but it's like a family, a big family. In fact, that might be my parents there.
(Soundbite of person walking)
Ms. KATHY PINN (Evacuee): Oh, my God! This is...
Ms. BALDER: We found more...
(Soundbite of woman crying)
Ms. PINN: This is my shop. That's my awning. This is our car.
It was beautiful. It was one of the oldest buildings on the street. It was the old Waveland drugstore, and Mrs. Lynch let me buy it from her and we remodeled it and had a shop downstairs, and we lived upstairs; hard pine floors, wood--solid wood. I didn't even think it would look like this. I didn't think it would look like this, you know. It's like...
Unidentified Woman #1: It's gone.
Unidentified Woman #2: Everybody...
Unidentified Woman #3: Everything's gone.
Unidentified Woman #1: The whole place, everything.
Ms. PINN: Oh. And this was Ms. Elaine Colson's(PH) lot. She passed away last year, and the Mardi Gras--Nareed's(PH) office for the Mardi Gras crew was right here. Then an attorney and Mary and Terry Krapulski(PH) had their sign shop and then Aunt Sue Ashman's real estate office, but they say they're going to rebuild. I don't know if I can rebuild because I don't think I'm up to it. This was a stone--you can see it was a brick--it wasn't--this building survived Camille. This building and the one on the corner survived Camille and City Hall survived Camille. The rest of it from the beach forward was out--that was the old bank building and it actually withstood more than it--now just the vault is left, and it's just unbelievable.
(Soundbite of aircraft)
MONTAGNE: Shop owner Kathy Pinn and her daughter Betsy Balder on Coleman Avenue yesterday in Waveland, Mississippi.
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