BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - You might have noticed some heavy equipment taking over the parking lot of the Biloxi Visitors Center Monday. A brand new statue was installed in the new memorial garden just to the center's west.
The 23,000+ pound monument was erected on the site, finishing the plans to memorialize a burial site with historic importance.
The Moran site next to the visitors center served as a cemetery to remains originally thought to be Native American. An excavation project by USM from 2005 to 2012 revealed that the remains were actually 32 French Colonial servants buried in the 1700s. Twelve remains were uncovered in 1969 after Hurricane Camille, and 20 more were uncovered after Hurricane Katrina.
The site is the oldest of its kind in the south, and the second oldest in the nation.
"We felt that because it was so nationally significant that we needed to go beyond just your standard memorial garden, and really pay homage to those early settlers of the Gulf Coast," said Rhonda Price, the deputy director of the Office of Coastal Restoration and Resiliency, which is part of the Department of Marine Resources.
This department decided to memorialize the site with a statue of a weeping angel. About eight months ago, Riemann Family Funeral Homes became the ones to make it happen.
"The sculpture was actually sculpted by an Italian artist in Carrara, Italy," said David Riemann.
After installation, the weeping angel towers more than 12 feet over the garden. Price hopes it will be an impressive and comforting sight for those taking it all in.
"Visitors from around the coast can come, walk the gardens, learn about the early history, and just enjoy the peacefulness that we're hoping the garden provides," said Price.
The remains found at the site are now buried in a crypt right beside the new statue.