Scenes of hurricane devastation are visible just about everywhere you look. When Gov. Haley Barbour looks at the mess, he says he's taken back by "the breadth, the intensity of destruction. It's obliteration in a lot of places. It's unimaginable."
Hurricane Katrina's fury staggered 43 different counties, and an untold number of Mississippi families from every walk of life.
"Those kind of people are depending on us. They're relying on us for their future," said the governor, choking back tears.
He emphasized that the future is more than removing hurricane debris. It's rebuilding homes, repairing streets, restoring neighborhoods, and revitalizing cities.
"I am determined that we aren't going to miss this chance," Barbour said.
The governor shared his determination with the commission he formed to rebuild the gulf coast. Over the next 90 days, a collection of architects, bankers, and corporate executives will design blueprints that could become the basis for south Mississippi's rebirth.
Andres Duany is from Florida. But he's lending his architectural expertise to the Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal.
"I think if the outcome is not greater than what was here before, there will be permanent pall on Mississippi, permanently you will regret this hurricane," warned Duany.
And that's something commission chairman Jim Barksdale won't tolerate.
"We're looking for bold, new ideas, big ideas," the chairman said.
Governor Barbour hopes those ideas lead south Mississippi down a more exciting development path.
"The job here is to have an inclusive, collaborative, participatory effort that arms the ultimate decision makers with the information they need so we make sure that we do in fact bring the coast back bigger and better than it was before," he said.
Before August 29, before Katrina demolished so many south Mississippi neighborhoods.
"If in 20 or 30 years people look back and the coast is just a newer version of what it was, we will have failed," said Barbour.