The site of so much destruction, is now the scene of celebration.
"It's a wonderful day," said Hancock County Superintendent David Kopf.
After nearly two years of frustrations and delays, Hancock County school leaders finally broke ground on the new South Hancock Elementary.
"Very excited. Can't believe it," Kopf said. "Just to see the dirt move and all the action and all the activity out here."
The 84,000 square-foot building will go up, just north of the old Gulf View campus in Lakeshore. The new school combines Gulf View and Charles B. Murphy Elementary Schools. Both were destroyed by Katrina.
"We are thrilled to death to see what you see behind you, you just don't even know," said Principal Jan White. "This month makes two years that we've been out of Gulf View. So we're excited to be coming back into South and seeing so much progress."
"This school represents an overcoming of obstacles presented by Hurricane Katrina," said Hancock County School Board President Jennifer Seal. "The teamwork involved in seeing this dream of providing an educational facility at the south end of Hancock county to fruition."
"I'm looking forward to seeing the school. What it looks like," said 9-year-old Terrel Ladner.
The Wednesday ground breaking holds special significance, because the ceremony was supposed to take place on June 21st. But on the eve of that event, FEMA told the district it won't fund projects in High Hazard Areas. FEMA finally gave the district the go-ahead. Throughout the whole process, school leaders never lost faith.
"There's been a lot of tears and a lot of prayers, a lot of patience, a lot of hard work and dedication to make this happen," Kopf said. "And certainly we're just blessed to finally be here."
Only bad weather can delay the project now. But if all goes well, the school should be ready to open next fall.
The school district will also build another elementary school at the north end of Hancock county, off Highway 43. That project, West Hancock Elementary, is expected to start sometime next week.