Camille's victims remembered in Biloxi

By Rebecca Powers - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - August 17, 1969, South Mississippi was in total chaos. Hurricane Camille slammed ashore in the early morning hours claiming 172 lives and causing the most destruction this coast had ever seen.

Every year since that tragic day, the Hurricane Camille Memorial on the grounds of the Church of the Redeemer in Biloxi is where the names of the dead are read. Many who come to honor them, never knew any of Camille's victims. But for some, this is an important way to heal their broken hearts, even four decades after their excruciating loss.

The Lapeyrouse sisters drove in from Chauvin, Louisiana for the Camille Memorial Service. Their brother, Norman, was on a boat that went missing August 17, 1969. Not knowing what happened to him was especially hard on their mother.

"Till the day my momma died, she waited for him," Norman's sister Leona Blanchard said. "She always thought in her mind he would show up, cause there was never any body, anything found. And to her, in her mind, I know she would sit in that chair and look outside."

Norman Lapeyrouse's name is on the list of the missing. He came to Mississippi the night before Camille, hired by a shipping company to move boats to safe harbor. He brought along a young deckhand whose name sits above his, Billy Wayne Grice.

"That would have been his last trip. He would have gone to college. He was a young boy of 19."

Each of the 172 names etched in stone on the memorial represent so many hopes, dreams and precious lives lost.

The site of the Camille Memorial, the Church of the Redeemer, was itself taken away in a storm. But the stones were put back together after Katrina, so the community can still hold this moving service.

"Some people come and it's a time each year that they really recall and remember the people," the Very Reverend Bo Roberts of the Episcopal Diocese said. "But for those who don't personally know them, it's a matter of simply honoring a person whose life was lost in a national tragedy."

The baby of the Laparouyse family, Linda Martin, said her family is comforted by this service. But for them, it really never gets easier.

"It's the not knowing," Martin said. "It's just you always wonder."

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