GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - They were feared dead after Hurricane Katrina. But they survived and touched the hearts of people around the world. Now, the story of eight Katrina dolphins is being told in a newly-released book. On Thursday, Mississippi's First Lady shared their incredible story with some Gulfport children.
With a captive audience of 125 fourth graders at Bayou View Elementary, Mississippi First Lady Deborah Bryant turned to page one. The story began with those anxious hours leading up to August 29, 2005. Eight dolphins remained in a large tank at Marine Life Oceanarium as Hurricane Katrina slammed ashore.
"A 40 foot tidal wave washed over the Marine Life Oceanarium. It crushed the dolphin house," read Mrs. Bryant.
All eight dolphins were swept away into the Gulf. Yet the facility's president, Dr. Moby Solangi, and his trainers never gave up hope. Twelve days after the storm, they found the dolphins near the Gulfport Harbor. The animals were dehydrated, hungry, and scratched-up, but alive.
"He counted the dolphins. This really makes me teary," read Mrs. Bryant. "An eighth dolphin surfaced."
Their amazing story is now captured in a book entitled "Eight Dolphins of Katrina: A True Tale of Survival."
"I liked the part when they found the dolphins. But I though it was sort of strange that they were right there at the exact moment that the dolphins were there," said nine-year-old Landon Miller.
"I wouldn't think they would have survived, and so I was really happy," said nine-year-old Kamani James. "I thought the dolphins would have died, because they didn't know how to get food by themselves."
Mrs. Bryant chose the book, because she said it was a fitting tribute to the resiliency of the people of South Mississippi.
"It just came out on the eighth anniversary of Katrina, and it's true. It's a story of survival. It's a story of persevering through a very tough time, and never giving up," said Bryant.
"Lots of us were younger and weren't here about the time and it's just like a history lesson. It's very fascinating for those dolphin lovers," said nine-year-old Mary Margaret Lemburg.
And the search and rescue mission shows that ordinary people can be heroes.
"We want our kids to remember that we never gave up hope. We did what we had to do, and we helped those who couldn't help themselves," said Dr. Moby Solangi.
"I think this is a sweet story and it shows the dedication of the crew that went out and rescued these dolphins and people are the same way. We all came together to help the people of the coast instantly. I'm proud of the people in Mississippi. We're a resilient state," said Bryant.
A year after Katrina, the dolphins were sold to the Atlantis resort in the Bahamas.
The governor and Mrs. Bryant will donate copies of the book to 95 elementary schools across South Mississippi.