Losing everything but faith

Brian Mollere lives under a tarp. And he can't stop telling the story of how he and his dog Rocky ran for it, then swam for it.

"It was 8:30 in the morning, Monday morning. I had the dog in one hand and paddled with the other," he recalls.

They tried and failed to ride out Katrina the way eight generations of his family had ridden out every other storm on this very spot.

"You gotta picture, the building's doing this at the time, like walking on a big, ol' marshmallow," he says as he demonstrates the violent motion when the hurricane hit.

In less than two hours on Monday morning Aug. 29, there was a different Waveland. The town with a population of 8,000 now had 5,000 homeless residents.

The surge from the Gulf of Mexico was so powerful that it carried beachfront homes and their contents more than a half mile inland. And when the water receded, almost nothing was left standing.

Not even the sturdy new Gulfside Assembly Church, dedicated Aug. 13 and taken by Katrina just 16 days later.

"It was two stories," says congregant Sherman Peters.

Mollere only confirmed on Tuesday that his mother Jane had been lost along with the house on higher ground where she'd been moved.

"She was mad because she had to leave," he says.

Left with only his life, his dog and his memories, Mollere suffered losses — like so many others — that were near total.

"At this point, I'm taking it minute-by-minute," he says.

Those are minutes to think about what's gone and about how little remains. A child's rope swing provides a wisp of hope.

"Faith is what keeps you here," says Peters.

Flags and a sign that says "We Shall Return" serve as symbols of defiance and resolve that Brian Mollere struggles to match in the last light of another long day.

"I think we're blessed," he says, as he calls to Rocky.

That's one slender, solitary thought that helps him sleep.