By MICHAEL A. BELL
PASS CHRISTIAN - As a journalist for German television, Otto Deppe traversed the state in 1998, recording everything from blues to the sandy beaches while making a documentary. That was during a "boom time," he said, when construction along the Coast was thriving.
On Friday, the 69-year-old returned, but to a world of contrast. "All this is now different," he said, scanning empty lots filled with debris and FEMA trailers aligning East Second Street in the Pass. He likened the devastation to what he saw in Germany after World War II. But this, he said with a shrug, "was all done by a hurricane."
Deppe and 18 other foreign journalists from Austria, Germany, England, the Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom and Belgium toured the Pass with Rep. Diane Peranich, D-DeLisle, in an effort to show the world how Katrina also destroyed the Mississippi Coast, not just New Orleans.
Many people "didn't know there was a Mississippi story," said Steve Richer of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention and Visitor's Bureau. He said the visitors would tour Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties during their four days here.
The 19 reporters and photographers are the biggest group of international journalists to come to the Coast since the storm hit, Richer said.
"Thank you for coming," Peranich said, hugging each visitor as they stepped off the bus, then escorting them toward Pass Christian library manager Sally James' FEMA trailer.
"All of this," Peranich said, gesturing with open arms, "was under water."
John Costello, a features writer for the Evening Herald in Ireland, said his jaw dropped when he saw the destruction.
"It's just hard to comprehend," he said. "I just can't imagine the pain and suffering (in) trying to live your everyday life."
One aspect that impressed him, however, was the residents' unity, spirit and how they are, simply, "real" people. Europeans, he said, often associate Americans as shallow, and having a "white teeth, big smile, 'Have a nice day'
Mississippians, he said, were different. "They pause to let a tear roll down" their cheek, Costello said.