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Ole Miss Student Copes with the Destruction of her Hometown

Hear Kerrigan Herret describe her experience of being away from home and family when Hurricane Michael was headed their way. Story by Victoria Hosey.

By Victoria Hosey

Almost two weeks after Hurricane Michael ripped through University of Mississippi junior Kerrigan Herret’s hometown of Panama City, Herret finally managed to make the trip down to see the devastation for herself.

What was once a vibrant beach town is now littered with debris—twisted metal, insulation, wood siding, downed trees and endless bags of garbage.

Most storefronts are unrecognizable.

A pile of molding hymnals lies on the front curb of the First Presbyterian church downtown, their pages fluttering in the wind. Across the road, an unmistakable shard of a McDonald’s sign rests on the side of the road where it landed almost a block away from its original home.

The parking lot of the mall where Herret spent the majority of her time as a teenager is now home to a fleet of electrical trucks, and the air is filled with the buzz of industrial-sized generators.

“I’ve seen pictures over the course of the past two weeks, and I kind of had an idea of what to expect, but pictures are not doing any of this justice,” said Herret.

“The closer I got it made me more and more emotional, but as soon as I saw my dad, as soon as I saw my house and my dogs, I was happy to have him with me and I’m happy to be experiencing this with him,” she said.

Like many in the path of Hurricane Michael, by the time Herret’s father realized the intensity of the category four storm, which escalated quicker than many expected, it was too late to evacuate.

In Oxford, Herret had to wait for word from her father through a long day of school and work. “I felt helpless,” she said.

“I think it was the biggest exhale of breath I’ve ever had,” said Herret, when she spoke of finally receiving the call from her father that he was safe.

Herret, who is a print journalism major, spent the weekend photographing the devastation in Panama City, hoping to gain a sense of closure.

“It was my own emotional closure as well as documenting it for everyone else,” said Herret.

Herret said that simply seeing her family in person was enough to assuage her worries over the past two weeks.

“It’s just a relief to see everyone…see my dad, my mom. I knew they were OK, but it’s just being in their arms and seeing them, and seeing my town, that it is in good hands and that we are going to be OK,” she said. “It’s never going to be the same, but hopefully will be better,” she said.

Video by Madison Scarpino and Abbie McIntosh.

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