Community reaches out to Mississippi coastal city

PORT TOWNSEND — Imagine that you live in a small town on a bay.

Art galleries and small shops fill the downtown business district. Historic homes line the residential streets on the hill. The county courthouse stands on the bluff, the white steeples of the wood-frame churches point towards heaven.

Only instead being on a hill, imagine that the churches, the courthouse, all the historic homes are built on the flat.

Then imagine a hurricane hits the town, creating a storm surge that sends a 35-foot wall of water crashing over it, throwing debris three to four miles inland.

Now you have some idea of what happened in the town of Bay Saint Louis, Miss.

“You can’t imagine it until you’ve seen it,” says Kathleen Mitchell, who recently returned from Bay Saint Louis. “It’s unbelievable.”

Mitchell is a volunteer with the bus project, a home-grown hurricane relief effort organized by local residents, who last month loaded two converted buses with supplies and set off for the storm-ravaged South.

Now established in Bay Saint Louis, the group is organizing a sister city exchange to help the residents put their town, a mirror image of Port Townsend, back together.

“We already had a foothold in the community, and discovered all the things we had in common,” Mitchell says. “It just felt like a natural connection.”

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