Falmouth students return from Miss. with stories of ongoing recovery

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FALMOUTH — For the third year in a row, Falmouth High School students traveled to Bay St. Louis, Miss., to help residents there rebuild from Hurricane Katrina.

What struck this year’s students most was how much rebuilding there is still to do.

“On the drive from the airport in New Orleans to Bay St. Louis , we could see everything that had been affected by the storm,” senior Jamie Sabo said. “There were homes that were broken down and abandoned.”

Sabo said she and the other students were surprised that more than five years after the hurricane, many of the buildings in the area are still not rebuilt.

When the group got to Bay St. Louis on Jan. 16, the work really began. During the storm, the town was hit with a 38-foot wall of water that destroyed most of the homes and businesses in the area. The Falmouth students were working on building a Habitat for Humanity home for a woman and her daughter.

“We were doing mostly carpentry,” said history teacher John Radke, who has chaperoned the trip all three years.

All 10 students applied to participate in the trip and, Radke said, they all had to arrange to take their exams early, because the trip was during finals week.

Radke said the group worked through the week to put the roof, windows and siding onto the home. He said the soon-to-be homeowner, Betty, was there during much of the building process, and was able to share her story of surviving the storm with the students.

“She was amazing,” Sabo said.

“She worked all night at the casino, then she’d come work on the house all day. And then she had to go pick up her daughter at school,” Radke said.

The students also went to the Bay St. Louis Historical Society and saw photos of old homes along the shoreline before the hurricane, then went down and saw what was left.

“Some (homes) are completely gone, some just had the steps up to the front door,” Sabo said.

The students also met with an author who wrote a book about surviving the hurricane. In addition to working on the Habitat for Humanity house, Radke said, it was important that the students came away with a clear picture of the area now and what it was like years ago.

“They did a great job. I think they had fun,” Radke said. “They all had differing degrees of (construction) skills, but none of them had done something like this before.”

Sabo said that it was everyone’s first time doing a project like this, but that she and the other students genuinely enjoyed themselves.

“I would definitely do it again,” she said.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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Falmouth High School students Angelikah Fahray, left, Nate Richards, Hunter Lafond, Sarah Hogan, Grant Burfeind, Jamie Sabo, Shannon Meserve, Natalie Kuhn, Nick Bachman and Tim Follo sit on the house they helped build for a Hurricane Katrina survivor in Bay St. Louis, Miss.