Biloxi Memorial Honors Katrina Victims - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi Memorial Honors Katrina Victims

Governor Haley Barbour stood in front of hundreds of his Biloxi constituents. He reminded them what they already knew. Despite the national media's coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its impact on New Orleans, "This is where the hurricane hit, from Pearlington to Pasacagoula," he said.

The midpoint of those two towns is Biloxi. Its residents suffered on August 29, 2005 just like everybody else. "Our people got knocked down by the worst disaster in American history and got right back up, hitched up their britches and went to work," Barbour said.

On a brilliant morning so different from one year ago, a Town Green that no longer resembled the horror of that August day hosted a very special service. Senator Trent Lott was one of the invited speakers.

"I'm here with a thankful heart for what we have achieved in the last year," he said. "It's been a challenge. But we've made progress."

Lott then mentioned the victims of Katrina. Moments later, high school students read the names of 51 Biloxians who died during the hurricane. Brenda Smith had no connection to the victims. But she felt compelled to stand up as their names were read.

"Those people died trying to get out, trying to help other people. I think we ought to honor them," she said.

The emotional observance brought together friends, neighbors and volunteers. Some of the estimated 350,000 volunteers who rushed here to clean out hurricane debris and save lives got the loudest ovations. Atlanta fire chief Dennis Rubin said the gratitude was unnecessary.

"Atlanta was hardly impacted at all by this hurricane event," Chief Rubin said. "So we were able to send 84 people, about a dozen different fire trucks to this area. And quite frankly, if we needed that help, I know the Biloxi Fire Department would answer the same call. So, it's a call to duty. It's a call to honor. It's a call that's required to be answered."

A call that has put Biloxi and the rest of south Mississippi in the hearts and minds of so many people.

by Brad Kessie

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