In Bay St. Louis, Miss. – 20 minutes west of Biloxi and an hour northeast of New Orleans – a woman living with her dog in an RV is not that out of the ordinary.
This is where the eye of Hurricane Katrina touched down in August 2005, causing more devastation than any recorded before her in the country.
Miles of sandy beaches and nary a tourist greet me in early November. Posts from decimated houses sit like forgotten bones.
For every grocery store, restaurant, bait stand and gas station, two or three are closed indefinitely.
The quiet is a vacation after Florida's coast line, Boston, Manhattan.
It's a sad quiet, though, like a ghost town.
Locals still talk about the aftermath.
Bodies, vehicles, and people's belongings were strewn like litter.
People slept wherever they could. The street lights were out and you could see the stars.
The insects were terrible. It was hot and humid.
Pet dogs roamed the city in packs.
Men reverted to instinct, too.
In New Orleans, where the levees broke, there was violence and looting. But here crime was kept mostly in check by the National Guard.
Store employees gave away food and toiletries.
A.J. Sconza, 59, and his wife Patricia, 68, were working the closing shift at Wal-Mart the afternoon before the hurricane.
A.J. waited for Patricia to check out the final customers, so they could drive to a relative's home further inland. By the time she finished, they realized there wasn't time.
They drove to their small one-story home in Bay St. Louis to ride out the storm.
"The wind was so loud, we had to yell to each other to talk. And then the water came in," says A.J., tears forming in his eyes.
In less than an hour, it went from a tiny pool he tried to sweep away to 4 1/2 feet above the living room floor.
"And my wife can't swim. She's tiny. I hugged her and I kissed her and I said, 'Good bye. We ain't gonna make it. I love you and I'll see you in Heaven.'"
But the water stopped.
It wasn't their time.
Days later A.J. dedicated his life to God and more than four years later is an
active member of Calvary Chapel, where he helps whoever and whenever he can.
"I dont have no regrets, I'm just full of joy. I've been in and out of jobs, but
I'm not worried about it because the Lord gonna take care of me," he says.
"I've heard of so much death since we've been here,” says Andrea Langham, who moved to the area with her husband Kris from Huntington Beach, Calif. a couple years ago. Kris is the church's pastor.
“And it's not just older people. It's drugs and suicide,” she continues. “So, there's still a lot of hurt here."
The Langhams were among those who came in teams organized by a group of Calvary Chapel pastors. They fed people three meals a day under a circus tent set up in a Bay St. Louis ball field.
The meals and sermons went on for about a year after the storm. Then restaurants began to reopen and the city asked the church to stop.
Church member Stephanie Luxich, 52, a lifelong resident of Bay St. Louis, population 6,000, remembers those days.
She lost her apartment in the hurricane and has lived in transitional settings, doing a variety of temporary work.
She also recalls how a decade before the storm, the now quiet city had started to boom. People bought property sight unseen. With its small-town charm and uncluttered beaches, Bay St. Louis was the new place to be. Real estate prices skyrocked.
Since then, about a third of the population has left.
"I always thought I was going to die here,” says Luxich. “But then Katrina changed everything. Nothing is forever.”
Luxich has learned to appreciate blessings amid the chaos – such as the year she spent in a 450-square-foot FEMA-issue cottage with sea green interior and crown molding.
She had it placed at the edge of her niece's property, near the water.
“I'd always wanted to live on the beach,” she says. “I couldn't afford it.”
"When you've been through a lot of stuff, it's just too much effort to stress about things," she adds. "He (God) has provided me with exactly what I need."