Robin Roberts' family traveled the world during her childhood because of her father's military career. When he retired, the family decided to move to the picturesque Gulf Coast town of Pass Christian, Miss., about 15 miles west of Biloxi.
The Roberts purchased their first home, and the family settled into quaint Southern living in the beachfront town of 6,600 people.
"'The Pass,' as it is called, is the kind of place everyone actually knows your name and takes care of one another," says Roberts. "We loved the tranquility of the coast and Southern charm."
Roberts frequently brought "Good Morning America" viewers along with her when she went home to visit her mom and the Pass house.
She also brought viewers along when she visited her high school in 1999 to mark her 20-year reunion.
"I thrived in this small town -- honors, sports, even voted most likely to succeed," says Roberts, who graduated as the Pass Christian High School salutatorian in 1979.
The Pass Takes a Direct Hit
Three weeks ago, Pass Christian took a direct hit when Hurricane Katrina blasted the Gulf Coast. Nearly every structure in the elegant town -- listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its trove of antebellum estates -- was destroyed.
"Nothing prepared me for the total devastation I found when I returned. The familiar streets of my childhood -- gone," says Roberts.
Even the high school was destroyed.
"I found the young girl I had met six years before who wore my basketball jersey," says Roberts. "Now she is a young woman dealing with the loss of her home. All we could do was console one another in disbelief."
A Hometown Changed
The Roberts family survived, but the town will never be the same.
"So many of our neighbors and friends [were] left homeless," she says. "Many died here, and there are still over 100 people missing from our small town."
Melrose Devenny, who is 84 years old, told Roberts, "It's almost like God wanted the world to end. It pretty -- pretty darn near did."
Roberts and her sister took their 81-year-old mother, Lucimarian, back to the family's home for the first time.
"While we are heartbroken to see our home of 30 years destroyed, my mother, as always, held us up," says Roberts.
"Everything is not lost," Lucimarian told her daughters. "It's going to take some time to rebuild."
Like many of the towns and cities so battered by Katrina, there is a feeling of despondency, but it is mixed with hope.
The chief of police told Roberts that what is needed is a "new town."
But the townspeople have also been blown away by the generosity of their fellow Americans, and they are eager to rebuild.
Another local resident, a nurse named Kathleen Quinn, said, "We will not be erased. We will not be forgotten. And we will not be ignored."