GULFPORT, Miss. – Sitting in a chair on a Gulfport funeral home loading dock, her back to two refrigerated semi-trailers, Carolyn Bozzetti was devastated.

In one of the big trailers that held 60 of the Katrina dead was the body of her father, Barney Anderson, 84, of Gulfport.

It fell to Jason Green, manager of the Riemann Funeral Home, to console Bozzetti.

Even as harried coroner’s workers insisted that he give them his immediate attention, Green spoke softly to Bozzetti. At times people were talking to him from three directions. Strangers were pulling on his arm to tell him of their storm dead.

The loading dock at the funeral home was a terrible place Thursday for Bozzetti and Green. Both said their faith helped them through some of the worst days of their lives.

On Tuesday morning after Katrina passed, Green said it was his Catholic faith that kept him going. He showed up at St. John’s Catholic Church at 7:30 a.m. the day after Katrina hit.

He attended a small Mass with Monsignor Andrew Murray and the Rev. Chris Munsch. The church is right beside the funeral home.

“Without faith I wouldn’t be standing here,” said Green, who said his own church, St. Thomas’ Catholic Church, was heavily damaged.

Bozzetti said her family lost three homes.

Days have “become a blur.”

She has clung to her faith.

Munsch said that during the height of the storm he ran upstairs at the rectory of his church and opened the door of his bedroom.

“The ceiling was raining but it was still there,” he said. “The bedroom was breathing in and out, whoomph, whoomph. I just went back downstairs and prayed. Faith is what we have to look forward to, when it’s over. It’s what gives us hope,” he said.

He said religion is the secret to overcoming disaster for all faiths. He encouraged nonbelievers to come to his church if they seek spiritual shelter.

“That is all that many will have. Many have lost everything else,” he said.

For Jana Phillips, 23, whose family home in Oakport, Miss., was hit hard, faith was tangible. It was a small, white ceramic crucifix that still hung on the last fragment of wall standing in her bedroom.

On Thursday morning, Phillips attended another Mass officiated by Munsch.

Afterward, she said, “Faith is the only thing we have right now except for each other and our family.”

Kerwin Cuevas, 38, said he rode out three hurricanes before Katrina, but this storm brought out a Hail Mary and an Our Father. “Every time there was a big gust of wind,” he said. His family is Catholic.

He and his family were at his mother and father-in-law’s house in North Long Beach, Miss.

“This was total devastation. There is no comparison to those other hurricanes,” he said.

And for the D’Angelo family, who evacuated to a Birmingham, Ala., motel, their Catholic faith meant shutting off the non-stop television news coverage and gathering in a circle.

Cliff D’Angelo, a former Gulfport city director of traffic control and safety, and his wife sat on the bed. Their children, 22-year-old student June D’Angelo and 13-year-old son Bubba sat in chairs. All joined hands and prayed. Cliff D’Angelo said the prayer was not for their home, which survived with only moderate damage, but for their neighbors and friends.

“We knew what this would bring,” he said after the Thursday morning Mass at St. John’s in Gulfport.

“As long as the family is together, I’m good,” said June D’Angelo.

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For Methodist Melody Luke, 50, the height of Katrina drove her into a hallway of her family’s Gulfport home.

“We prayed and gave thanks to God. Faith is everything. Because without, there is nowhere else to cling,” said Luke.

No one is focused on the “why” questions yet at Biloxi’s Bay Vista Baptist Church, said Sunday school director David Atkins.

“It’s not ‘why.’ It’s ‘What do we do now; How do we get through,”‘ Atkins said.

He said Christian theology’s answer to “why” is that tragedy came after sin entered the world. But he said it’s not about punishment.

“God’s missionaries just got a practical lesson in compassion. We feel and know what others are going through because we have gone through it,” he said.

He and a dozen others stayed in the church during the hurricane.

“God was right here with us through it, and with those killed, whether we realized it or not,” he said.

On Tuesday after the storm Atkins found a woman walking on the beach crying. He hugged her, they talked and she asked, “How do we make it through this.”

“I told her, ‘One day at a time.”‘



(c) 2005, The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.).

Visit The Sun Herald Online at http://www.sunherald.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-09-01-05 1904EDT


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