Although his home was virtually destroyed, Meridian Star Assistant Editor Steve Gillespie returned to the daily grind Thursday. The Mississippian knew it was important to keep his fellow citizens informed about recent events and happening.

Late Monday afternoon, Hurricane Katrina pounded the 45.54-square-mile city of Meridian, Miss., and the Gillespie home. The Gillespies braced for the worst, sending their four young children -- a fifth was visiting a friend -- to the basement.

"We heard all of this popping and cracking," he said. "That's when we started yelling for the children to get downstairs. We were scared and did not know what was happening. Then we heard and felt the big crash."

A brief investigation revealed that the Gillespies' backyard oak tree had fallen through their home. And it had fallen in the only area not occupied by a member of the family or their dogs.

"We were lucky," he said. "No one got hurt."

Unable to maintain its longtime position due to an overly saturated ground, Gillespie said the oak tree pulled up at least half of the backyard area when it fell. A couple of other trees fell on the family suburban, while others blocked access to the family's second automobile.

"We were unable to leave our house and had to stay there overnight," he said.

Four days later, Gillespie said his children remain in the care of an aunt in Pontotoc, Miss. He and his wife are living with his mother, who does not have electricity but does have a gasoline stove and hot water heater.

Thursday, Gillespie returned to the Meridian Star, a sister daily newspaper to The Valdosta Daily Times.

Hurricane Katrina "left hundreds of homes damaged and trees and debris strewn in streets and yards. With winds peaking at 81 mph, Katrina's wrath exceeded the damage caused by Hurricane Ivan nearly a year ago," according to the Meridian Star.

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