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Hurricane Katrina, let my people go - Shannon Jenkins

Although I only lived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast for a little more than four years, I consider it home.

Many happy memories were made there. I still crave eating at my favorite restaurants and seeing shows at the community theaters. Every other day I'd stroll through an art gallery not far from the bay and soak in all the work by local artists.

It's a wonderful place, and I can only pray it will remain so after Hurricane Katrina has ripped through the area.

Today I'll be making calls to friends there to ensure they are alive and well. Then I'll have to grit my teeth as I ask if the picturesque towns along the coastline I've grown to love are still intact.

Watching the endless broadcasts of water and wind devouring the place I call home has been difficult, but not being able to reach my loved ones there has been downright painful.

I started making frantic phone calls on Sunday morning to see if my people where fleeing the area.

My friend Tiffany and her husband planned to wait out the storm at their home on the eastern part of the Gulf Coast. They're nowhere near the beach, but they could very well be in harm's way. Tiffany told me she had wanted to drive to North Carolina to a relative's house but didn't. She was especially worried about keeping her 7-month-old daughter on the coast.

When I called my friend John, he was driving alone to Jacksonville, Fla. He said two of my good friends were planning to stay at their home in Bay St. Louis, which is less than an hour northeast of New Orleans. My calls to their home went unanswered, as did my calls to another close friend.

One group of people I consider family escaped from Slidell and south Mississippi to Destin, Fla. On Monday I called to make sure they were OK. Nearly 15 of them were crammed in two hotel rooms, but they were fine. One told me he just knew his home was under water.

In southwest Mississippi my family would also have to brace for destructive winds and rain. My father said family from Louisiana would take shelter with him and my grandmother.

I can only hope today I'll be able to contact everyone. Knowing they have survived the battering will be a sigh of relief. Hearing their voices will an answered prayer.

Shannon Jenkins is the education reporter for The Daily Herald. He can be reached at sjenkins@henryherald.com or (770) 957-9161.