BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A man whose bare legs became a symbol of the resiliency after Hurricane Katrina shared his thoughts on the decade since the storm. On Friday, former Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre was the guest speaker at the Katrina +10 program in Biloxi.
At the height of Katrina, Favre says 95 percent of Bay St. Louis was under water. Although much of the city washed away on August 29, 2005, Favre said he's proud to say the people of Bay St. Louis didn't lose hope.
When he first saw what Hurricane Katrina had done to his beloved Bay St. Louis, he said he soon realized there wasn't much of the city left. The Bay St. Louis Bridge was gone, and so were 134 historical homes. Ninety percent of the city's businesses were damaged or destroyed.
"We'd see one side of a building. We'd see another side of a building," said Favre. "But we wouldn't see the back, and we wouldn't see the front. Then, eventually it hit us that the building was destroyed."
Favre told an audience at the Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art about the impact so much destruction had on Bay St. Louis. He said he started wearing shorts after Katrina, because after losing his home, he had nothing else to wear. Later, his choice of wardrobe took on a deeper meaning.
"Then, it got to be a symbol that when people start dressing the part, that's a signal that everything is OK, and at that time, we were a long ways from being OK," Favre said. "So, it was a commitment that I made that until Bay St. Louis was put back together again and made whole, somebody was going to have to suffer looking at these ugly legs."
A brand new harbor is just one example of the progress Favre says he's proud to have seen over the last decade.
"Last year, when the harbor was dedicated, the mayor made the announcement that that was the last of the major Katrina rebuilding projects. Does that mean we're finished? No," said Favre. "We still have a ways to go. Possibly one of the biggest areas that we're lacking in is we still have a lot of our people who haven't come home yet. That was our goal. Either get them home or provide the opportunity for them all to come home."
Favre said the population of Bay St. Louis should be around 15,000 people because of annexation since the storm, but instead, it sits at 11,0000. He said while some of that is people who chose not to come back, he said other people would like to return but can't afford the high cost of elevated construction and insurance.