EYRAUD
Ric Francis  /  AP file
Donnalee Eyraud shields her eyes from the sun as she looks at a hovering helicopter from the front steps of her Ninth Ward house in New Orleans last week. She rode out Hurricane Katrina in her home, which lost its roof.
msnbc.com
updated 9/23/2005 2:19:33 PM ET 2005-09-23T18:19:33

Readers from the Gulf Coast and elsewhere in the nation are writing in telling us about the emotional impact of the hurricanes and how they're trying to cope. Here's a sampling of what they said:

SEPT. 22 —
Aside from losing everything we have, our house is missing (last seen heading north in 150 mile per hour winds from Hurricane Katrina). We're trying to find our son who is missing, trying to find three of our missing animals (we saved three and lost three), trying to get medical treatments resumed, and trying to deal with FEMA (call at 1-2 a.m. and you can usually get through). We're on our third move since Katrina hit. But we have found great comfort in the way our hometown is pulling together. — Karen, Bay Saint Louis, Miss.


SEPT. 20 —
For the first eight or nine days I was feeling distraught and panicked, especially watching the news of the people who were not evacuated while the water was rising. I was angry that the city and the state did not get the poor and elderly, the sick, and the people living in nursing homes and hospitals out before the hurricane made landfall. I watched the news nonstop and yelled at the television. When I flew to Buffalo (our hometown), leaving my husband behind in Houston so he could go in to see the house once the roads were open, I was breaking down and terrified of what he would encounter. My older daughter is just now starting to feel the weight of what is happening. We are in Buffalo with family, her cats are at her grandmother's, she hasn't been able to find her friends, her school is closed, her father is in Louisiana, her hamster is in Houston, her house is uninhabitable and most of what she owned is now gone. With a new school in a different state, she doesn't have friends here and is struggling to catch up in certain subjects ... My youngest daughter, who turns 3 next week, is confused. She says her "house is broke" and "my room is dead?" and misses daddy ... It is the unsettled business of how we will manage to pay a mortgage for a home that is unlivable and all the other questions that makes it so difficult to figure out what to do ... I find that it's exhausting to try to take the next steps amid such uncertainty. I am dealing with it by accomplishing one task a day, such as filing for unemployment or enrolling my daughter in school. — Karen Hales, Slidell, La.


SEPT. 19 —
I have had to send my three children to another state to be cared for by family while I try to work (I am a registered nurse) and stabilize my house. They are extremely homesick and I feel like I may have deserted them in a time that they need my husband and me. They have been kept pretty much away from the destruction of our town and do not realize just how bad the Gulf Coast of Mississippi is. Just about everything in my town is gone except for one grocery store and a pharmacy. I really don't want them to see our neighborhoods totally in a mass of debris with empty slabs. It is scary for an adult and hard to comprehend. How can I expect them to handle this without being scared to death? — Laura Ladner, Long Beach, Miss.

The "progress" that the FEMA talking heads are showing the media is totally unrealistic. As a displaced resident of New Orleans, 20+ days post landfall, I have not been able to get even the simplest questions answered by FEMA. Of the eight different people I have spoken with about the emergency funds that were to be made available, none knew of the program's existence. Then, they refer you to the Web page. The Web page is a joke ... Thanks to FEMA's inability to function in the most primitive form of coherence, I have had to resort to finding a job in the city in which I have fled to in order to provide food, clothing, and shelter. So far, FEMA's best response to me was that I shouldn't worry ... that all of this is a tax write-off. How many months till tax season??? ... We pay our taxes and when the people need the government, where is it? ... I used to be proud to say I was an American ... Perhaps after this, we should call ourselves Americants. — Jeffrey M. Hargis, New Orleans

I'm not in the affected area (I live in Pennsylvania), but I find that what's hardest for me is thinking about companion animals left behind and perhaps lost. As the "parent" of a beloved cat, I feel a great sympathy for owners who have lost a member of their family — and a tremendous uplift whenever I read of an animal saved or reunited with its people. Being unable to contribute monetarily, I cope by passing on updates on the animal situation, gleaned from various places on the Web, to the online cat groups I belong to. Several members have thanked me for my efforts, which makes me feel that I'm accomplishing something. I also plan to page through the posted pictures and see if I can locate several particular cats I've read about. And I am drafting a long letter to be sent to my Congressmen, the White House, and Homeland Security listing suggestions as to how to prevent or at least ameliorate another such disaster. — Christine Jeffords, Scranton, Pa.


SEPT. 15 —
I lost my house, my car, all of my belongings. I relocated to a city I don't know, without transportation and without any of my family or friends for support. I am too far away to deal with insurance companies and other life details that need attention. My boss is unsupportive while giving lip service to his "concern." He insists I work seven days a week due to the disaster. I want to see my family and cry. — Anonymous, Metairie, La.


SEPT. 14 —
Where do broken hearts go when floodwaters rise ever so high as you struggle to stay alive? Where do broken hearts go when your tongue is heavy with thirst and there's only one slice of bread left but you go hungry just to feed your child first? ... Where do broken hearts go when you sleep on tiny cots and an unknown shelter is all you've got? ... Where do broken hearts go when you've been displaced from your home, your job, your family and all that you had? Pray for us please. — Arleen M. Robinson, Lafayette, La.

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