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To actually have a home to go to

 

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Sharon Stiger and her 17-year-old son, Chris, lived in Waveland, Mississippi, before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. They lost virtually everything and spent two years living in exile before moving into a Habitat house in the Diamondhead community near Bay St. Louis.

   

Sharon Stiger and her 17-year-old son, Chris, lived in Waveland, Mississippi, before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. They lost virtually everything and spent two years living in exile before moving into a Habitat house in the Diamondhead community near Bay St. Louis.

“It’s definitely nice to be able to say, ‘I’m going home’—instead of, ‘I’m going to the FEMA trailer’—and actually have a home to go to,” Stiger said. “When we lived in the FEMA trailer, I never wanted to go back there. If somebody invited you over for dinner, you did not say no. Anything to keep from going to the FEMA trailer.”

Stiger’s home was built during the 2008 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, and the president and first lady were part of the volunteer crew.

“They were amazing,” Stiger said, still getting a little choked up at the memory.

She and Chris moved into their place in August 2008 and have since fallen into routines for the first time since Hurricane Katrina uprooted their lives.

“Things in Bay St. Louis seem pretty much back to normal, except for the price of everything,” said Stiger, who works in the business office of a nursing home. “Everything is more expensive now. But I feel much more back to normal, having a house.”

The recovery has been slow, Stiger said, but steady.

In the most recent sign of civic progress, a popular fishing pier in Waveland that had been obliterated by Katrina has now reopened. Stiger’s son, an avid fisherman, had marked down the days till the grand reopening on a wall calendar.

“After the storm, people who had been through Hurricane Camille said it would be 10 years before you won’t be able to tell there was a storm here,” Stiger said. “I remember thinking, ‘Ten years? That’s crazy. Ten years is a long time.’ But it probably will be that.”

Chris, a junior in high school, has developed a strong talent for auto mechanics but harbors a dream of running his own charter fishing boat. Mom, meanwhile, is holding out hope that he’ll want to go to college.

“I tell him, ‘I will find a way to send you to college, no matter what. You just get your grades up so you can go.’ ”

After worrying about things like basic shelter for so long, Stiger said, such everyday concerns are almost a relief.