A basket of breaded catfish fried in a seering vat of oil. Smoke from a grill filled with hamburgers drifted toward the catfish fryer. A Biloxi man looked at the scene, smiled, and said, "Good morning Pensacola."
Fifty South Mississippi leaders drove to the Florida panhandle to cook lunch for their storm stricken neighbors. The volunteers got treated like royalty.
"Hey Debbie. I'm George Touart. Thank you for being here," Escambia County's administrator said to one of the chefs.
Touart used to be Jackson County's administrator. Now he has a similar job in hurricane weakened Escambia County, Florida.
"When Bobby Eleuterius called and offered to do this, I honestly almost cried," he said.
Supervisor Bobby Eleuterius, Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway and a band of Mississippi's good samaritans spent the day in Pensacola. The aptly named gumbo express whipped up lunch for some very tired, very hungry Florida hurricane victims.
Biloxi policeman Charles Britt had grill duty.
"It was real close to being us," he said, referring to how lucky South Mississippi was when Ivan came ashore. "And these people are in pretty bad shape. This is our way of being able to help out."
Harrison County Coroner Gary Hargrove placed condiments on the paper plates being used to serve the lunch. A day earlier, Hargrove was in Gulf Shores, cutting tree limbs for storm victims in that area.
"I just felt like I needed to do something more for the public than what I do," he said.
Sheriff Ron McNesby heads up the Escambia County Sheriff's Department. He let South Mississippi turn his parking lot into a great big picnic.
"If it wasn't for things like this, I don't know how we'd make it," the sheriff said. "But when you have a city that turns out and supports another city in another state, that has a tremendous impact on our employees, because we know people care about what is happening here. It's a great support, wonderful morale builder."
Fifty volunteers from the city of Biloxi, Harrison County, Hancock County, the DMR, the Palace Casino and Beau Rivage served today's hurricane relief meals.