Ravaged Gulf Coast Town Gets By With Help From Moore County Friends

Posted August 31, 2006
Updated November 10, 2006

— Friends separated by hundreds of miles came together Tuesday to celebrate how much progress they had made a year after Hurricane Katrina ripped apart a community.

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    After Katrina rumbled through Bay St. Louis, Moore County, N.C., decided to adopt the coastal Mississippi town. Residents of North Carolina's Sandhills provided everything to residents of the devastated community from uniforms for the high school football team to household supplies to gift cards for students needing school supplies.

    "Moore County has been amazing to the entire community," said Janet McQueen, marketing director at Hancock Hospital in Bay St. Louis.

    The hospital had to be evacuated during Katrina, which caused $6 million in damage to the building and destroyed another $14 million in medical equipment.

    "The water rushed in at such a force, you could see whitecaps," McQueen said. "We simply have an amazing story of survival. It wasn't easy -- it's still not easy. It's a work in progress, but it's ongoing."

    Doctors from North Carolina set up a makeshift hospital in a nearby Kmart parking lot after the storm to help fill the void.

    "The volume of patients was just so, so tremendous that we could have not handled it," hospital administrator Hal Leftwich said.

    FirstHealth of Moore County also donated trailer loads of supplies, equipment and an ambulance to help Hancock reopen.

    "The hospital has come a very long way. I think we're just about back into full-scale production here," said Dr. Andrew Clayton, who lost his home and is still living in a trailer provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

    Gus McKay, town manager of Bay St. Louis, said a group called Friends of Moore County provided $100,000 to help restore a local park. The 7th Street Park has officially been renamed Moore Friends Park, and Moore County residents who worked on the project joined in the official dedication Tuesday, the anniversary of Katrina.

    "We wouldn't be in the position we are now. They've done a tremendous amount of work for us," McKay said. "We call ourselves a place apart, and now they're part of us."

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