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Katrina survivors find they can cope

Moving ahead in Katrina's aftermath takes lots of resilience from Gulf Coast survivors. Fortunately, they have it. Here are some examples.

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Vicky Strong and her boyfriend, Robert Peterson, survived three days in her attic in Bay St. Louis, Miss., with three small kids, a Labrador and a jug of water. They'd evacuated to a tent in a Kmart parking lot earlier this week when an Alabama TV station's story of their plight drew a benefactor from Gulf Shores, Ala. He offered them a home and Peterson a job in construction. He also asked not to be named.

"We're packed," Strong said resolutely.

But what about the kids: Kimberly, 6, Bradley, 5, and James, 3? How would they react to the move?

Strong, 25, and Peterson, 39, got the answer they were looking for when the kids, just after they woke up, broke into Lynyrd Skynyrd's old number "Sweet Home Alabama."

_Scott Marshall, the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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Katrina left little in Pass Christian, Miss., but did spare its history.

Hurricane Camille killed 78 people in the Pass in 1969 and all but wiped out the town. You could see that in the photos and scrapbooks that Billy Bourdin kept for years at his plumbing shop in the center of town.

Bourdin's collection included, for example, before-and-after photos of the U-shaped complex known as the Richelieu Apartments, stripped to bare slab by Camille. Twenty-one people died there, attending—some say—a hurricane party.

A shopping center arose on the reputedly haunted slab. Katrina wiped it clean again.

Bourdin, 77, his shop and his collection survived, however. Now he needs more scrapbooks.

_Ryan LaFontaine, The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.)

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Downriver from New Orleans, the sparsely populated East Bank of Plaquemines Parish remains all but submerged and would be completely underwater if the pumps stopped. So Manuel Guerra and a makeshift crew of four have slept in shifts since Aug. 30 alongside the huge Waukesha 12-cylinder diesel pumps that suck up to a million gallons a minute into a drainage canal.

The pumps shake the earth and are so loud that the men communicate by hand signals or by shouting in one another's ears. But the men figure that if the pumps fail, all that's left standing in their isolated community of 26,000 will be inundated. So they monitor the machinery like mothers of asthmatic children.

The men didn't have a tent until Tuesday and their faces are burnt dark. They shower under the rainwater cistern's spout, wash their clothes there and dry them on the generator's outtake. A wall of old oil drums protects them from alligators and wild boars. They have lots of military-style meals, but one of the men abstains on the theory that they contain saltpeter to inhibit the libido.

Most of them lost their homes, trucks and everything else to Katrina, but they intend to stay somehow.

Guerra, 64, might not, he conceded. "My wife wants to move to Tennessee. I figure, if it'll make her happy, I'll do it."

_Nicholas Spangler, The Miami Herald

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Louis Matto of Waveland, Miss., came home from the Korean War with some fine china for his wife.

After her mother died, she finally had the money to put together her formal dining room, and the good dishes went into the buffet.

Katrina took their home and the formal dining room, but left some of the china.

"All I can figure is that the buffet floated, and when the water receded, it must have slowly tipped over and set those dishes down," Matto said. "And they were still stacked."

_Brad Weisenstein, Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat

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Jasmine Henson of Long Beach, Miss., had some unusual praise Friday for Herb Cohen, a Federal Emergency Management Agency representative who helped her husband, Allen, and her file a claim on their flattened home.

"He made it easy. He was very encouraging, so pleasant and low-key," she said.

What really paid off, Henson continued, was some personal advice.

Cohen told her not to blame her husband, because it's not his fault, and for her husband not to blame her, because it's not her fault.

"Very good advice," she said.

_Scott Hawkins, The Sun Herald

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(Knight Ridder staff writers Scott Marshall, Ryan LaFontaine, Nicholas Spangler, Brad Weisenstein and Scott Hawkins contributed to this report. Frank Greve compiled their dispatches.)

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): Vicky Strong, Robert Peterson

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