Pearlington is really a “census-designated place.” I am not sure, but I suspect that is government-ese for “this town isn’t big enough to be called a town, but people are living here. . . so we’ll DESIGNATE it as a place.” About 1,600 people live there, of whom 77% are white and 20% black.
So, why all this information on Pearlington? Well, this little place was effectively ground zero when Katrina hit. The eye wall of the hurricane passed right over Pearlington. Here’s how someone who is keeping a blog about the recovery described it:
It is impossible to comprehend, in the comfort of our own homes, what it must be like to lose everything in a single day.
On Monday, August 29th, just after 10:00 a.m. local time, Hurricane Katrina made landfall, with the eastern eye wall directly over Pearlington, MS - sparing New Orleans the direct hit. Every home, building and vehicle in this town of 1600 was destroyed. If that wasn’t enough, a storm surge travelled 4.5 miles inland and drowned what little was left under 12-20 feet of the most toxic stew imaginable.
Since that day, a hardy coalition of volunteers - representing almost every faith, state, Canadian province, two European nations and an eastern Asian country - have travelled regularly to Pearlington to rebuild this forgotten bayou town.
While there are several churches in Pearlington, many of them some type of Baptist, there is no Presbyterian church there. Yet, I am told, the Presbyterians were among the first disaster recovery people there. One of the lessons we learned (mentioned in the previous blog) is that for volunteers to come and help rebuild, they need a place to stay. So Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has set up a series of Volunteer Villages. One of these is in Pearlington.
This small child played in the muddy driveway leading to his family's trailer, right next to the Fellowship Hall of the First Missionary Baptist Church.
The First Missionary Baptist Church, as it is being rebuilt.