Concern about Katrina victim brought satisfying, coincidental answer

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 3, 2006

Have you ever had a thought about the whereabouts of someone, and the answer to that thought came very quickly, in a mysterious, coincidental sort of way? That’s what happened to me on Monday morning.

Yesterday, Aug. 29, marked the first anniversary of the severe catastrophic damage that Hurricane Katrina left along the Gulf Coast. On Monday, morning news programs and some talk shows chose to begin coverage of that devastation in recognition of that anniversary. After Aug. 29, 2005, news coverage on most TV stations began to show damaged areas hit by the storm. The memory of one man came back to my mind and I began to wonder what had happened to him. I can still remember most of the details in his story when he was interviewed a year ago, because I saved the recorded tape.

His name was Harvey Jackson, and he was walking along the street with his head down. A reporter caught his attention and began interviewing him.

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Jackson said he and his wife, children and grandchildren had climbed to the roof of their house for safety after the water had rushed into the house. A large tree was beside the house, and he caught onto it for support while holding his wife’s hand. When a 20-foot wave hit the house and split it in half, his wife’s hand began to slip away from his and she begged him to let her go.

“You can’t hold me, you can’t hold me,” he recalled her saying. She then told him to take care of the kids and grandkids. He said he couldn’t hold on any longer and had to let her hand go. He then watched as her body washed away.

The reporter then asked him what her name was, saying she could put it out there so that others could look for her. He told her, and made one last statement.

What really made me break down was the way he made that statement,

“I’m lost, I’m lost, that’s all I had, I tried so hard,” he said tearfully.

He then put his head down and walked away. He was shown again a few days later trying to recover his losses; and I never saw him again.

Remembering some of this interview, I began to switch channels and stopped on Channel 13 as Diane Sawyer, on the Good Morning America Show, was making an announcement. She stated that in that half-hour the show was going to interview some victims of the storm to see how they were doing one year later. I stayed on the channel, and sure enough, the first person that was interviewed was Jackson.

The first thing that the report revealed was that Jackson’s wife’s body has never been found, and that he is now living in Atlanta, in a brand new house that a generous donor gave him after hearing his story. Jackson said that he has tried to keep his promise to his wife, because her request that he take care of the kids and grandkids were the last words to come out of her mouth. The only memories that he has of her now are a driver’s license that he had blown up to fit an 8-by-10 inch picture frame and a crumpled up marriage certificate. To keep her memory alive, he has placed flowers on the lot where their house once stood in Biloxi, Miss., but he hopes to hold a memorial service soon.

After I heard that report, I turned to the CNN cable station and he was being interviewed once again, this time by Kara Philips. This was evidence and sure proof that his story had touched many people.

The program showed his family in their new home, and it was good to see them looking very happy and finally settled.

Another scene that I will always remember and empathize with is the girl about 11 years old who continued to shout, “We need help. We need help!” I wonder where she is today and hope that she, along with others who were affected by the storm, received the help that she was shouting for and they all needed.

Wall is a former News-Herald reporter and regular contributor to the Town Square Page.