Praying for normal: The Sherry Anderson family -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Praying for normal: The Sherry Anderson family

Sherry Anderson knew it was going to be a long road to a complete recovery after Hurricane Katrina: “I just looked around and said, ‘We’ve got some work to do.” Her home’s rehabilitation will be completed during this year’s Carter Work Project.

As Hurricane Katrina closed in, Sherry Anderson and her daughter fled their home of 16 years with nothing but a few family photos, their medical records and insurance papers.

“I left my dog and everything,” said Anderson, a 48-year-old floor supervisor at the Island View casino.

Her 13-year-old chow named Bear survived the storm itself, but died within weeks from all the stress. He is buried in a place of honor in the back yard, where two new dogs—Charlie the chow and Peaches the Chihuahua—stand watch.

Anderson’s two sons are grown now; only 17-year-old daughter Shaneka, an aspiring child psychologist, remains at home. The two are living with Anderson’s mother, right next door, until their house is rehabbed in this year’s Carter Work Project.

“The stress ain’t over,” Anderson said. “I just pray and hope everything gets back to normal.”

‘We’ve got some work to do’

Anderson was born in Gulfport and has spent all but a few years of her life here. Hurricane Katrina tore off part of the roof, dumped about 4½ feet of water inside and ripped up nearly every pine tree in sight.

“It was bad,” she said quietly. “Somebody’s stuff was in my yard, and my stuff was in somebody else’s yard. I’ve never been through anything that bad.”

Anderson and her daughter had sought refuge with family on higher ground shortly before the storm, but they returned about a week afterward to start cleaning up.

“I just looked around and said, ‘We’ve got some work to do,’” she said. “Everybody really pitched in—that was one good thing about it. That felt good, to see everybody just coming out and helping.”

Inexplicably, Anderson’s refrigerator and air-conditioning unit survived the hurricane’s deluge. “They’re still working,” she said, shaking her head. “The rest of my stuff was ruined. I had to throw out everything and start over.”

Shaneka, now a junior in high school, is moving past the trauma of the hurricane and focusing her attention more on just being a teenager. She is a “B” student, loves basketball and has a part-time job at Winn-Dixie after school.

Anderson, meanwhile, relies on a good sense of humor to get through all the residual fear and anxiety of living through a hurricane.

“Every time I hear thunder and lightning, I get in there on that floor and just hope it doesn’t get bad,” Anderson said. “At least now, we don’t have any trees left to fall on the house.”

She laughs for a minute before going on. “But if they ever say another one’s coming, I’m gone,” she said. “I’m telling you, I am gone.”