When Tricia Bliler came out of her front door after the winds and surge of Hurricane Katrina finally passed, she saw a police car washed up like driftwood against the building across the street. It was the first of many bad signs.
Bliler had perched on her kitchen counter and watched the clock as the storm surge washed through her apartment in the beachfront town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The water rose for half an hour, remained for an hour or so, then fell for the next half hour. Once it receded, she set off walking the ruined streets of the town, to see how bad it was and to figure out what to do.
At first she saw no one, only wrecked houses, fallen trees, overturned boats, and downed power lines. Eventually, she passed the police cruiser a second time and noticed that someone had removed one of its wheels. The next time she passed, another wheel was missing, and then another. By the time she got back to the apartment all four had disappeared. Bliler has no idea who took the wheels or why, nor how long she wandered the town.
She doesn’t know why she felt compelled to hide behind a tree, later that night, from the probing beam of a helicopter. Everything was just so confusing and surreal. A moment of clarity came after she saw a man wandering alone in a tuxedo. She figured he’d lost everything in the flood and found some dry clothes at the wrecked formalwear store nearby. Surveying the anarchy, she says, “I thought: It’s official—everybody’s crazy but me, and that’s the way I’m gonna play it.” And so her personal transformation began.