Hometown horror

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:13 AM ET

Shannon Garrett has been glued to CNN every waking moment, hoping for any glimpses he can get of his hurricane-ravaged home-town.

But when the cameras show what's left of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi -- where the worst of hurricane Katrina hit -- he can hardly bear to look.

"We've been in front of the TV all day long, all night, waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning hoping for any kind of information," said the Edmonton Eskimos defensive back, who probably lost his off-season home and three other rental properties he owns to the worst natural disaster to hit the U.S. in a century.

"The only thing they were showing at first was New Orleans and Biloxi. Nobody was saying anything about Bay St. Louis, which is right between them, where the eye actually hit, because the two-mile bridge that leads there was destroyed. They're just now getting rescue workers there, and they discovered a lot of dead bodies ... a lot.

DEAD BODIES

"Now that you can see what happened, it's nothing but devastation and dead bodies. It's hard to watch. They said on TV that 80% of my hometown is gone."

Garrett is certain his parents would have been among the casualties if he hadn't flown them up to Edmonton (a trip he booked a month ago) to watch him play against Montreal.

"I'm glad I did because he usually rides the hurricanes out. He would have stayed. He definitely would have stayed. So I'm lucky."

The rest of his family was evacuated to Jackson, Mississippi before the storm, but none of them know if they have homes to return to, or if their friends made it out alive, too.

"Everybody wants to know what's going on, but there's no communication with Bay St. Louis at all. All I know is what I can see on TV, just devastation. I'm just trying to get some information ... if the phone lines would come back up I could get someone to go and check on my property."

The water has receded, but from what he's heard, there's almost nothing left in Bay St. Louis but piles of splintered wood.

"In New Orleans the levees just broke. We got all the wind and all the waves. Anything close to the beach was wiped out because the eye hit it directly. You had 25-foot high waves, and all the wind, it destroyed everything."

One of his rental properties, a tri-plex, was three blocks from the beach. That's gone for sure. As for the other two properties , his primary residence, his parents' home and the homes of his brothers and sisters, who knows?

"The best scenario is that they're flooded. I know they're flooded for sure because my street floods after a hard rain. And with what's left, now you have to worry about looters ... if my home's still there. I don't know. My brother and sister live in the same subdivision, so I don't know about their places either."

Everything was insured, and everyone got out OK, so Garrett considers himself lucky.

TAKING IT WELL

"I'm taking it well, much better than my mom and dad and my sister. My sister is hysterical, she can't handle it. She was evacuated to Jackson before the storm and now she's trying to get back to see what's left of her house, they just built it a year ago.

"I'm just happy that all of my immediate family members are OK. You can worry about property later on. Seeing people on TV who've lost their homes, that's hard, but property can be replaced, lives can't. I'm glad my family is OK, now I'm just hoping that all my friends and their family members from back home are OK, too."


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