Evacuee remembers city fondly

Published 1:26 am Monday, September 3, 2007

NATCHEZ — Two years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed her home, Ocean Springs resident Germaine Weldon thinks of the six months she spent in Natchez fondly.

Weldon initially evacuated to Natchez with her husband and son because her sister lives in the area, but she ended up staying in the area for a lot longer than initially planned because they didn’t have any home to go back to in Ocean Springs.

“I wasn’t able to go back for several weeks, but my husband (John) is a doctor, and he stayed at the hospital there for about two weeks, working with the other physicians who had lost their homes,” she said.

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Because their home was basically reduced to its foundation, the Weldons rented an apartment on north Rankin Street and enrolled their son Jackson at Trinity Episcopal Day School.

The people in Natchez were very welcoming, and local accounting firm Silas Simmons allowed Weldon — an accountant and investment advisor — to use their office until she could set up a computer hookup at home.

“Their staff even helped me send letters to clients,” she said. “They were very helpful.”

Jackson soon became involved with the Jefferson Street United Methodist Church youth group, Germaine Weldon said.

Even since they have moved back to their Ocean Springs home, Jackson has been involved with the Jefferson Street group, even going to summer camps and doing mission work, she said.

Once the Weldon family was settled into a new house in Ocean Springs, they hosted volunteers who came to help with the recovery effort.

“It’s a little ironic to be a volunteer in your own community with outside groups, but a number of people (in Ocean Springs) have done that,” she said.

Some people in the area whose homes were not completely destroyed took down the parts of the house that were still standing and reused some of those materials when rebuilding, she said.

The cleanup wasn’t always easy, she said.

Volunteers had to clean trash out of the marshes near the town by hand because heavy equipment could not be brought into the soggy areas, Germaine said.

Since moving back to Ocean Springs, the Weldons have maintained their Natchez ties, and John is even a member of a hunting club in the area, she said.

“My sister is there, but we have lots of other reasons to come back, too,” she said. “We made some lifelong friends, so in a way Katrina was a good thing.”