Lee And Chi Chi Sharing Optimism

Their post-Katrina signs are an inspiration to others. Anyone who's driven Highway 90 through Gulfport can tell you where Lee and Chi Chi live.

But you may not know the story behind those signs and the determined couple that's building back.

"Oh, none at all. No," said Lee Bryant, explaining there was never any doubt about he and Chi Chi rebuilding. "We decided from day one after the hurricane. We came down here and looked and drove along the beach and said, 'Hey, we're going to rebuild. We're going to rebuild.'"

The Lee and Chi Chi FEMA trailer will soon give way to a 3300 square foot beach front home. It's a hurricane resistant structure.

Contractor J.B. Taylor points out multiple hurricane strapping and something different - Hurri-Bolts , which are basically thick steel bolts that run from foundation to rooftop.

"Yes. This is one continuous bolt all the way through the whole house to the very top. And it more or less squeezes everything together, to try and keep from uplift. It's the newest thing on the market," said Taylor.

Bricks salvaged from their old home will be incorporated into the new construction. Katrina left them with little more than a slab and a tree swing, but Lee and Chi Chi decided early on to share their optimism with others. That's how those signs came about.

"I drove down the beach two or three days after the hurricane and it was nothing but destruction, destruction, destruction. And I said to myself, if I could just be one of the first ones to rebuild, and show folks it could be done, I just felt compelled to do so," said Bryant.

"Everything's positive. Everything they look at, they have a positive outlook on life, about the coast. And everybody needs to take heed and look at what they're doing. They're an inspiration to all of us," said home consultant, Wayne O'Neal.

Lee and Chi Chi are enjoying their FEMA trailer, but they hope to move into their "new pad" sometime in mid to late July.