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Discovering Waveland

By Sean Callebs
CNN

Editor's note: In our Behind the Scenes series, CNN correspondents share their experiences in covering news. CNN's Sean Callebs traveled to Waveland, Mississippi, for "Anderson Cooper 360" to see how far the town had come since Hurricane Katrina.

Sean Callebs
CNN's Sean Callebs tours Waveland, Mississippi, with Brian Mollere, who lost his home and business.

SPECIAL REPORT

• Rebuilding: Vital signs
• Gallery: Landmarks over time
• Storm & Flood: Making history
• I-Report: Share your photos

WAVELAND, Mississippi (CNN) -- I never made it to Waveland, Mississippi, when I was covering Katrina -- I only remember thinking it sounded like a pool in my town when I was growing up.

Driving into this ruined coastal community ahead of President Bush's visit, I couldn't believe the debris. Personal effects and remnants of homes were everywhere, with much of it decorating treetops stripped of any green.

True, a mind-numbing amount of trash has been cleared -- but not nearly enough to start rebuilding the town's devastated infrastructure. (Watch footage of the mounds of debris still littering Waveland -- 3:07)

A measure of that devastation: Before Katrina, Waveland had nearly 8,000 residents. Today it has somewhere between 800 and 1,500.

My unofficial guide in Waveland was Brian Mollere -- that's pronounced Mole-air. His family has lived for generations here.

Brian's grandparents swam to safety from the storm surges that came with hurricanes in 1947, 1965, and Camille in 1967.

But his 80-year-old mother was not so lucky. She drowned in Katrina in the storm surge that wiped out the town. Brian's two-hour swim to safety could provide fodder for a movie of the week.

Brian lives in a FEMA trailer now. He stays busy trying to help those who still call Waveland home.

It also keeps Brian from thinking about nightmares that haunt him since his mother died.

If Brian gets a chance to give the president an earful, he just wants to say, "Please, hurry up with aid money." He says residents are ready to rebuild but they need help.

He's not bitter. He's not angry. Brian is resigned to the fact that making his life whole again is a long, uphill climb.

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