Racetrack Road neighborhood rises from hurricane rubble

D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - By Steve Phillips – bio | email

D'IBERVILLE, MS (WLOX) - The neighborhood along Racetrack Road in D'Iberville was devastated by hurricane Katrina, with water from nearby Biloxi Bay destroying dozens of homes.

It was a neighborhood of mostly modest homes belonging to hard working families.  By the time Katrina's wind and water ripped the area apart, it was unrecognizable.

Five years later, the Racetrack Road community is still on the mend.

"We spent a lot of time and money on it. And in 12 hours, it was gone," said Barbara Williams, while looking at "before" and "after" photographs of her 80-year-old home.

She has a photo album that documents the storm's destruction.

"That was my aunt's house. And this was the back of mine. And this was my dad's house," she said, pointing to a picture that showed a large pile of debris; debris that was once family homes.

The large homestead that sits just off Biloxi Bay has been in the family 150 years. Katrina's storm surge could care less.

"It was all gone after Katrina," said Williams.

"We couldn't get past that stop sign over there because the debris was so built up," she recalled.

The memories still seem so fresh.

"We cried for days," she recalled, "And we were blessed when a family from Nebraska came down. And they built us a house. And it was a blessing."

These days, when she looks around, Williams sees more progress in the neighborhood:  New homes,. elevated homes and homes still under construction.

Recovery has taken place and is still happening along Racetrack Road.

"It's a slow process, because people have the fear with the hurricane seasons. And people have moved north of the interstate now. So, it's been a slow process," she explains.

"We built back. Of course, I feel more comfortable here. This is my home," said Susan Quave, who grew up in a house just off Racetrack Road.

When Katrina destroyed the family home, Mennonite volunteers helped her rebuild on the same lot, though she admits there were thoughts of heading north.

"We looked and we looked and we looked above I-10. But everything was so expensive. We couldn't buy property and build a house," Quave explained.

Another Racetrack Road resident told WLOX News she's very happy in her new elevated house.

She credits "grants and volunteers and a lot of hard work" for the neighborhood recovery. This place looks much different than it did five years ago

"A lot different. A lot of hard work. A lot of hard work has gone into this neighborhood. Hopefully, it's going to continue to grow and get back to where it was before," said D'Iberville resident Mike Carter.

There are still scattered slabs and "for sale" signs in the neighborhood. But the progress is still remarkable considering what little Katrina left behind.

"We had to park probably six to ten blocks away and walk, 'cause we couldn't walk through all the debris," Carter recalled.

Five years later, though some scars remain, the healing is well underway.

"I never had a home like this before. It's beautiful. And I love the way it's up on the foundation," said a now smiling Susan Quave.

"Very happy.  Happy to have a home," said a thankful Barbara Williams.

Several of the Racetrack Road neighbors we talked with couldn't say enough about the volunteers.

Mennonites and other faith-based groups spent countless hours helping rebuild homes in that area.

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