part 1, 2
While others in his family got so discouraged they pondered leaving Biloxi for good, the idea never occurred to Stanley. "This is home, this is peace of mind, right here," he said. As he surveyed the storm flotsam in his yard just after the hurricane, Stanley added, "No matter what it looks like now, it gonna be all right later."
Stanley applied for every kind of emergency help he could think of. When FEMA's 24-hour toll-free phone lines rang busy day after day, the Smiths got through by dialing in the middle of the night. Stanley photographed their destroyed appliances and furniture before piling stuff in the street for removal. The evidence made his insurance claim much stronger. By Thanksgiving, the Smiths were living in a FEMA trailer in the yard. Auto insurance paid for two new trucks.
Throughout the ordeal, Stanley gave credit to a pair of influences that made survival easier. He has an abiding, Christian faith that God will provide. He also served for 16 years in the military. The former encourages patience. The latter, endurance. Stanley says too many others in Biloxi gave up when they got befuddled by bureaucracy.
"It's just like getting on a road that you've never traveled before. If you read the signs you might not get lost. I've read signs and still got lost. But you learn from experience," he says.
Stanley is an amiable fellow with a wiry build. Leslie is soft-spoken, but quick to smile. They've known each other since high school. When folks come over the two take turns at the grill, barbecuing local fare - from Gulf seafood to goat meat.
By February, 2006, the Smiths were approved for a $144,000 low-interest federal disaster relief loan to build a new house. They chose a two-story prefabricated cottage from a builder in Georgia. It has green siding and a steel roof. The bedroom is on the second floor and the foundation is 4 feet higher than the old place. Stanley could have built at the previous elevation, but checked with a surveyor to get up above flood level.
In July 2006, Stanley and Leslie Smith wait for the concrete foundation of their new home to be poured.
"I'm gonna end up in a house two hundred times better than the one I was in," he says. "It doesn't compensate for a lot of the things that we lost. I can't really look back at what was here before because then that would be depressing."
Looking forward, Stanley is ready to go back to work. He has an offer to oversee landscaping at a Biloxi cemetery. Stanley says the contractor who built his house also offered him a job. There's a critical shortage of workers on the Mississippi coast.
Neighbors have been coming by to see Stanley's house. It's the only prefabricated house on his street. Given the immense number of homes that need to be replaced, this type of quick-to-build structure is appealing.
"I was planning on remodeling awhile back," Stanley says with a smile. "God just helped me out a little bit."
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