Family's Despair Amid Devastation

bay stlouis family CBS/EARLY SHOW

Of all the towns pounded by Hurricane Katrina, Bay St. Louis, Miss. was among those hit hardest.

With leveled structures all around them, CBS News correspondent and The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith met with one family staying there, for now.

The Hernandez family lives in one of the highest points in town, but when Katrina roared through, "It was bad," says Bonnie Hernandez. "The water came through. The winds were just ripping at the house, everything around, you could just see houses, pieces floating down the street."

Bonnie's 9-year-old daughter, Hope, tells Smith she wasn't scared during the storm, but now she wants to leave.

"I feel really weird about it," she says, "because stuff is all over the place and everybody's things are lost."

The Hernandez home has no power or running water.

"We've had a lot of help from the (police)," Bonnie Hernandez says. "My boyfriend's a police officer and he's been helping, bringing stuff home.

"It's bad. Everything's destroyed. We don't know if our friends are alive. We don't know about family. People who left, that know we stayed here because of Chuck's job, don't know if we're alive.

"We don't know what Gulfport or New Orleans look like, but this place is almost like Ground Zero and we need help badly."

To make matters worse, says Bonnie Hernandez says, "My Explorer was totaled. Chuck's police unit totaled, his truck totaled. We have no way to get out. We're stuck. … There's no way out. We're stuck here, and that's why we are begging for help."

Schools pose another problem.

"They're pretty much destroyed," Bonnie Hernandez says. "We don't know what's gonna happen. Kids keep saying they're going to go to school through next summer. We don't know.

"We can't go back to work. We're lucky we have Chuck still working because that is an income, but I work for an attorney and, from what I understand, his office has had about four feet of water also."

Hope has already had enough, saying, "I want to get out of here. I don't want to stay."

Bonnie admits keeping the family going keeps getting harder.

"I just keep telling them, padding it, telling them, 'It's gonna be fine. We're gonna have power. We're gonna have water,' but when you look outside, how are they going to rebuild this?

"I keep lying, basically, and telling them it's going to be fine."
  • Brian Dakss

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