Video: Mississippi moves forward

By Martin Savidge Correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/23/2006 7:38:46 PM ET 2006-01-24T00:38:46

Colleen Herndon lost her home in Biloxi but says all she ever hears about is somewhere else.

“We are the ones who were hit," she says. "Everyone is focusing on New Orleans, but it came here. I've never, ever, in my whole life experienced anything like this."

Hurricane Katrina's destruction in Mississippi alone would qualify as the worst natural disaster in American history. With 231 dead and more than 110,000 people displaced, damage in Mississippi is estimated at $125 billion.

Yet, like many here, Herndon says she hardly hears or reads anything in the national news. The local paper even proclaimed Mississippi the “invisible coast.”

But Mississippi is getting Washington's attention where it counts. Just last week alone three congressional committees visited here.

Here's one example: Mississippi and New Orleans both needed 40,000 FEMA trailers. Mississippi now has 33,000. New Orleans has just 2,000.

And even though Louisiana lost twice as many schools, five times as many hospitals, more than five times as many jobs and nearly 10 times as many businesses, Mississippi has gotten almost as much federal money: $5.3 billion versus Louisiana's $6.2 billion.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin envies Mississippi’s success with Washington.

“They have the stroke to get what they want, and they got it,” he says.

If by stroke, he means political clout, he's right.

"Right now Mississippi is at the top ebb of the sort of power curve and Louisiana is in a bit of a slump," says NBC News political analyst Charlie Cook.

Mississippi is way ahead on planning too. Gov. Haley Barbour’s commission on rebuilding has issued its final report, while the Louisiana Recovery Authority is just getting started.

“Why fuss and bellyache about it when we can just go on and do it ourselves?” says Biloxi resident Joann Emile.

Mississippi may not be getting the national attention it wants, but it does appear to be in a much better position when it comes to getting things done.

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