PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - Memorials were held all across the Coast on Sunday for one of the most devastating storms to ever hit South Mississippi. A handful of people in Pass Christian got together to remember that night 45 years ago.
"I thought the world was coming to an end that night," said Mayor Chipper McDermott.
He was only 20-years-old when Hurricane Camille roared onto land in Pass Christian in 1969. He's seen many storms come and go since then, including Hurricane Katrina, but he remembers his first hurricane like it was yesterday.
"Well, it was at nighttime. It was the first time we'd ever seen a real hurricane in our lifetime. People were 20, like myself, and really and truly, we thought we weren't going to get out of that one," said McDermott.
Once he and his family saw water running in through their windows, they climbed from the rising waters in their beach front home on Scenic Drive. On top of all the chaos, this hurricane landed in the black of night.
"You can't tell what's up, down. You don't know which way you are. Everything's black. The water's there, the winds blowing, and it's a mess," said McDermott.
Once the light finally showed, McDermott says people began the recovery efforts. Big players in that effort were the Seabees.
"They brought two shifts of work, 12 hour shifts, with their big cherry pickers and all the equipment they had. They did an outstanding job," said McDermott.
As the mess was cleared, the body count grew.
"We lost so many people in that, and it's part of our history," said McDermott.
That's why the city comes together once a year to pay tribute to those 78 Pass Christian residents who lost their lives to the wrath of Mother Nature. It's something that McDermott says the city has an obligation to do.
"It was a night I won't forget," said McDermott.
Pass Christian is widely considered to be ground zero for the storm's damage. McDermott says the city has and will set up a wreath at the Camille monument in War Memorial Park every year in memory of those who died.