Back Home Again: Pam Kirkland & Mike Aultman
You will never know how it feels until you walk in our shoes, or unless you were here in the early aftermath of Katrina. To turn in your driveway with excitement, wondering how bad it is going to be. And then you see it was worse than you could have imagined.
There was nothing there. I may only have been a renter, but for the last five years, this was home. Mike and I have worked hard and we managed to have everything I possibly ever wanted or needed. And I love my home and my life. Then in one night, Katrina took away everything I had to my name in a few short hours. My home, which to some might not have been much, but it was mine, and with it, my job which I loved dearly. You will never know until you have been there what it is like to turn in that driveway and there be nothing there. Nothing but mud - and a lot of it.
The first thing you think of is what are you going to do. We were still saying that months later. Then, by the grace of God one day, I was in the Pearl*Mart. Susie Sharp, our landlady, and I were having a conversation about rebuilding her house, as we were digging through some used clothing. We wanted to use them as work clothes, because the mud wouldn't wash off what regular clothes we had, so in the end you had to discard most of them. Pearl*Mart was the cheapest place to "shop" for work clothes....
As we were talking, this real nice, friendly man and his wife offered to come look at Susie's house. That wonderful man and his wife became my Guardian Angels. After we got to know each other, he asked me one day what was I going to do now, and I just said that I don't know. How do you get something when you don't have anything?
But he showed me. By the love of God and the good people of this world pulling together, you can do a lot more than you think. Jim and Susie Merritt (my Guardian Angels) went back to Beaufort, SC and started talking to some friends and church members. A few weeks later he called and told me he thought with my little savings and the material and money they had raised, that he thought he could build me a house. He said maybe a two-bedroom. I told him all I really needed was four walls a little bigger than that FEMA camper. I was not asking for much.
True to her generous nature, Susie Sharp gave us some land to put it on. One day soon after, down that once muddy driveway that Katrina created, I watched as my pre-fabricated walls coming down the road on a trailer. In a matter of a few weeks I already had more than I could ever ask for. I have a one bedroom beautiful home.
I am a few weeks away from escaping the FEMA camper and moving in. But it would have never been possible without the land from my best friend Susie Sharp from and my Guardian Angels, Jim and Susie Merritt, who put it all together.
Even better than the house, is to see how people from all over the world come to help people they don't even know. Thank God for these beautiful and wonderful people. None of the recovery would have happened and none of us would have been able to get our lives back, if it had not been for the volunteers that come to Pearlington to help as many as they can. I thank God for all of you and for what you have done, in all the ways you could, for Mike and I and our house.
It's funny how you can grow to love someone that you have never met until they come get in the dirt and sweat with you. You laugh together and mash fingers together and it starts out a job for the day but ends up as a good day with new friends. Thanks to everyone who help us and a special thanks to Charlie Holmes and Canada Jon with all their help in rounding up materials and things.
Charlie has been a good thing for Pearlington. I hope everyone appreciates him for all he has done for the people of Pearlington. Thank you, volunteers, for all you have done.
And if you come to the Volunteer Reunion in August, you will get to see my beautiful house that God and his Helpers built.
With love and gratitude,
Pam Kirkland and Mike Aultman
Note: A wonderful group of volunteers from Chestnut Grove Baptist Church in Earlyville, VA is currently siding Pam and Mike’s new home. They are pictured below, enjoying a Fourth of July feast at Susie's house, prepared by Pam. Pam and Mike are on the far left, rear and Susie is crouching down, right front.
A Personal note from Canada Jon: Pam and Mike deserve a place to call home. They have supported Susie through the tragedies that came for her and have been kind, generous and loving to me, as I stay on Susie's property and do my work in Pearlington.