About this blog

Andrew Locke and Bob Sullivan

From Sept. 22-27, the posts in this blog about Rita's evacuation and devastation were reported and photographed by Bob Sullivan and Andrew Locke. Sullivan, 37, is MSNBC.com's technology and consumer fraud reporter. Locke, 34, in charge of MSNBC.com's editorial strategy, was on his second hurricane blog tour.

David Friedman and Miguel Llanos

From Sept. 18-22, the posts in this blog, examining Katrina's impact on the environment, were reported and photographed by Miguel Llanos and David Friedman. Llanos, 45, is MSNBC.com's environmental reporter. Photojournalist Friedman, 35, is a multimedia producer at MSNBC.com.

Kari Huus and Jim Seida

From Sept. 10-16, the posts in this blog were reported and photographed by Kari Huus and Jim Seida. Huus, 43, has been a journalist for 20 years and a reporter with MSNBC.com since 1996. Seida, 39, has been a media editor with the Web site since 1996.

Mike Brunker and Andrew Locke mugshot

From Sept. 2-9, the posts in this blog were reported and photographed by Mike Brunker, left, and Andrew Locke. A journalist for 25 years, Brunker, 49, is MSNBC.com's West Coast news editor. Locke, 34, has been a journalist for 17 years and is currently in charge of MSNBC.com's editorial media strategy.

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Joy for one hurricane survivor

Posted: Friday, September 9 at 08:20 am CT by Mike Brunker

050909_blog_bill_harris_file_2NATCHEZ, Miss. -- It’s just one small miracle amid Hurricane Katrina’s awful devastation and heartbreak, but one certain to lift the spirits of many.

Bill Harris, who survived being trapped for three days in a condominium flooded by Hurricane Katrina, is alive and looking forward to being reunited with what almost certainly is his cat, Miss Kitty.

Bill Harris speaks to our team Monday. Soon after this photo was taken he was rushed to a hospital. (Andrew Locke / MSNBC.com)

I spoke with Harris by phone several hours ago as he lay in a Hattiesburg, Miss., hospital, where he is being treated for internal bleeding apparently related to his chronic kidney condition.

“I was shook,” Harris says, describing an earlier phone call when Red Cross workers told him that the cat he credits with saving his life during his hurricane ordeal had been found alive earlier in the day. “I just didn’t have any idea anyone would do that for me. … I’m kind of crying right now.”

And after hearing a description of the cat trapped by an animal control officer and an animal rescue volunteer in his ruined condominium in Slidell, La., Harris has no doubt that it’s Miss Kitty.

“She’s the only one in the whole neighborhood,” he says of the brown and gray cat.

Harris got another piece of fabulous news during the same phone call. His mother, Jane, is alive and well in a Slidell nursing home. Andrew and I visited the nursing home where she lives Thursday afternoon, when she told us that that the residents ended up staying put during the hurricane and had no problems.

“But that was some storm,” she told us, shaking her head.

And her son has some story to tell about how he survived Katrina’s powerful storm surge and ended up becoming an Internet celebrity.

Amid all the death and destruction wrought by Katrina, Harris’ story struck a chord with us and with readers of Katrinablog, generating a flood of e-mail offering prayers, suggestions on strategies for locating the cat and postings that matched her description.

And, yes, there were some wondering why we are making so much fuss about one man and his cat.

That’s not an easy question to answer. The best explanation I can come up with is that the dramatic story of their ordeal and the poignancy of Harris’ search for the cat he credits with saving his life by leading him to the chair that he stood on for three days in his flooded condominium somehow made him and Miss Kitty a symbol of hope amid all the despair left in Katrina’s wake.

Harris, who worked as a security guard for many years before suffering kidney failure as the result of heat stroke earlier this year, has been asking himself some of the same questions since his rescue. A devout Baptist, he can only figure that God has spared him so that he can fulfill his dream of becoming a minister.

“Maybe I’ll call it the ‘Wild Bill and Miss Kitty’ ministry,” he says, referring to his handle as a CB operator.

Harris hasn’t yet had a chance to read your postings on Katrinablog, but Red Cross volunteers are planning to drop off printouts, as well as photos of the cat we believe to be Miss Kitty, on Friday.

They will have to wait until Harris undergoes exploratory surgery to determine the source of the internal bleeding that led to his hospitalization.

A reunion between Harris and his "miracle cat" is still at least a few days away, he figures.

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Little Happy Stories ...there are so many millions of individual stories coming out of the brutal saga of Hurricane Katrina. Far too many of them are tragic, so bleakly, heart-rendingly sad that sometimes you just have to take a little while to turn away, find some other s...

Posted on Sep 9, 2005 11:10:32 AM at: RuminateThis

Reunion. I've decided to make this the go-to place for warm and fuzzy animal stories...Here's the latest on Bill Harris and Miss Kitty:

Posted on Sep 9, 2005 3:56:18 PM at: Brilliant at Breakfast