Amid desolation, a cry leading to a sense of purpose

Gulfport, Miss.

Portraits Of A Catastrophe

September 04, 2005|By Robert Little

The residents of Gulfport, Miss., picked through the wreckage of their city in silence.

They climbed over stacks of splintered lumber and shattered furniture, scraped soggy paper and housing insulation off their shoes, and wandered across a sunlit waterfront none of them recognized.

The scene was as solemn as a funeral service until from a far corner of the city's shipping terminal, a cry for help rang out Tuesday.

About a dozen people ran toward the wailing, seeking its source.

Then they found it: an adult sea lion, escaped from the city's ruined aquarium, nestled against an overturned tractor near a bubbling sewer drain.

Fetching buckets from the debris, they lined up and formed a brigade, dumping water over the sea lion's head.

A man in a military uniform found a round banquet table to shield the animal from the sun.

"We found a life in all of this," said Jeanne Robinson, 51, a drop of sweat hanging from her nose as she winced and hefted another 5-gallon bucket. "This is what we need to do."

For hours, they worked, new arrivals taking over each time an exhausted resident walked off.

The residents of Gulfport had found something to save.

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