Sick of bickering and bitterness? Here’s a gem of good news to relieve the day’s ugliness. When Hurricane Katrina wiped out a swath of the Mississippi gulf coast, it took hundreds of lives and mansions and shacks alike were blown to splinters.

Many local people from up here in southeastern Pennsylvania, where I live, went down to help. Lineman crews helped bring back the lights. A local undertaker/assistant coroner tried to identify the dead — those that hadn’t washed out to sea. A local high school up this way asked what it could do, and eventually the principal of Long Beach High School down on the coast came up with an idea:

Sponsor homecoming.

The local high school, Lampeter-Strasburg, pitched in with a will. Other schools in the area pitched in as well, as did local businesses. Soon they had enough donations and dresses to put on a homecoming dance at both Long Beach and Pass Christian high schools.

Last week, 40 students from Lampeter-Strasburg drove down to the disaster area with at least $15,000 worth of clothes and food and supplies, along with $35,000 in donated cash. The girl in the AP photo above is trying on a prom dress from the racks and racks of them the local kids brought down with them.

It seems like such a small thing, a minor high school ritual in a place scoured down to the bedrock by a furious storm. Most of the students living in temporary shelter, the high school cracked and flooded. But a small touch of celebration, and one night of forgetting it all to dance and dress up turned out to be just what the shell-shocked students needed.

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