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Rising from Katrina: How My Mississippi Hometown Lost It All and Found What Mattered

Kathleen Koch

John F. Blair, Publisher
$14.95 paperback
6 x 9
264 pages
75 black-and-white photos
Anderson Cooper, foreword
August 2010

Hurricane Katrina left Eddie Favre, the affable mayor of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, with nothing but the shirt and shorts he was wearing. State and local officials offered to send him pants, but Favre declined. “Wearing long pants sends a signal that everything is okay,” he insisted. “And until such time as everything is okay here, I’ll wear my shorts.”

Even George W. Bush took notice. “I arrive here at this important school and he’s got short pants on,” the president remarked during a visit nearly five months after the storm. “Eddie, I like a man who sticks to his guns.”

Those who read this moving story of the small town of Bay St. Louis and the Mississippi Gulf Coast will discover an entire region that did just that.

The 2005 hurricane season was the most devastating in history. People from the Bahamas to Mexico to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida suffered a record 15 hurricanes, four of which reached Category 5 strength.

Katrina was the costliest. Images from the Superdome and the rooftops of New Orleans are seared into the American consciousness.

But few realize the Mississippi Gulf Coast was where Katrina hit full force and where the destruction was worst. Entire towns were reduced to shoulder-high rubble by the winds and the unprecedented 30-foot storm surge.

Bay St. Louis was the former home of CNN correspondent Kathleen Koch. From her initial Katrina assignment in Alabama, Koch headed west in the storm’s aftermath. The closer she got to her community, the more personal the story became. Old friends asked her to search for loved ones whose bodies would soon be found. She reported from the sites of once-beautiful homes—including her own—stripped to their concrete pads. Time and again, she heard residents’ pleas to spread the word about the dire needs on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Rising from Katrina is a story of the kindness of strangers, of minor miracles—and, above all, of how despite bureaucratic snarls and insurance battles a region rolled up its sleeves and rebuilt. It is also the story of a veteran reporter who, struggling to maintain her objectivity amid loss, traveled her own personal path from devastation to recovery.


  • Winner of the 2011 Gold Award for Best Non-fiction in the Southeast Region from Independent Publishers
  • Honorable Mention for 2011 Book of the Year in the Regional Category from ForeWord Reviews


"A great new book..."  -- Larry King, Host, CNN's Larry King Live
"It’s a compelling story...The folks in Mississippi who have battled back from this storm deserve credit indeed, along with our continued attention."  -- Brian Williams, Anchor, NBC Nightly News
"Award-winning broadcast journalist Kathleen Koch presents Rising from Katrina: How My Mississippi Hometown Lost It All and Found What Mattered, a testimony of the devastation that the notorious 2005 hurricane wreaked upon the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Katrina's own home, as well as many others and entire communities were literally leveled in the wake of Katrina's destruction. Yet Rising from Katrina is about more than the fury of the storm; it is about the struggle to rebuild, to make sense of disaster and tragedy, and the heartwarming random acts of kindness that human beings are capable of even in the most dire circumstances. A handful of black-and-white photographs illustrates this inspirational, compelling and powerful blend of judicious reporting and heartfelt sympathy. " -- Midwest Book Review
"Kathleen Koch’s efforts in the national media ensured the Mississippi Gulf Coast was not forgotten. Time and time again, she reiterated the message that Katrina came ashore where we both grew up in Hancock County, Mississippi. We will always be thankful to all the volunteers that gave of their time and resources to help. The random acts of kindness you will hear about in the book can’t help but renew your faith and humble you at the same time. Kathleen captures the challenges, victories, and can-do attitude the people of the Mississippi coast exhibited after this horrible disaster. It is a great read!" --Brett Favre, NFL great and Mississippi Gulf Coast native
"As a longtime Bay St. Louis citizen, one whose house along the Jordan River got washed away by The Beast, I read Kathleen Koch’s extraordinary Rising from Katrina with keen interest. A first-rate reporter, Koch got all the harrowing details exactly right: death-rattle winds, raging storm tide, flying metal debris, and the god-awful feeling of rank abandonment. An all-around excellent memoir of Mississippi—too often forgotten—during the deluge of 2005. Read it and weep." --Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University and author of The Great Deluge: Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the Mississippi Gulf Coast
"We lost our North Beach Boulevard home—three stories and ten thousand square feet, now a brick slab—and all our life treasures to the natural forces of Katrina. Kathleen Koch’s book tells the continuing story of Katrina’s effect on the lives of so many. It will be a favorite among those documenting Katrina’s unprecedented destruction. Thank you, Kathleen! It really hit home." --Clarinetist Pete Fountain and his wife, Bev, who found Katrina no great respecter of jazz legends