When MDOT first unveiled its replacement bridge designs, it was Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran who stood up and said it needed to be more aesthetically pleasing. Well, just before the first car rolled over the new bridge Thursday, the mayor marvelled at what hard work and creativity could accomplish.
Those accomplishments were apparent as fireworks over Biloxi Bay illuminated what many people considered south Mississippi's most important symbol of recovery. "It's just wonderful," Neva Duff said with a smile.
Before the pyrotechnics, her city held a somber moment of reflection, to remember those people from Ocean Springs who lost their lives during Hurricane Katrina. Many of those in the crowd held colorful hand luminaries that lit up Ocean Springs Front Beach. Tommy Cruthirds looked at the people gathered on the beach and said, "It just means a lot, it really does."
Local bands were a big part of this post Katrina moment. They entertained the hundreds of people who came to celebrate solidarity, determination, resolve and renewal.
Mayor Connie Moran showed up after the official bridge ceremony ended. Moran was very vocal when MDOT first presented its bridge replacement plans. She didn't like its width. And she thought it needed more aesthetics, and better lighting. Dignitaries credited her for helping create a better looking bridge. She didn't feel the need to gloat. "Let's put personalities and politics aside," the mayor told her citizens. "As far as the bridge is concerned, let's just get over it."
One of the people pretty excited about that eventual moment was Tommy Cruthirds. His great grandfather was a bridge builder after Camille. He was part of the construction team that built the Biloxi Bay bridge. "You know we worked long hours to get to this point. So it means a lot," he said.
As the sun set over the bridge, and the anticipation of it finally opening grew, Neva Duff realized her time consuming drives around Ocean Springs were about to disappear. "Oh, it is wonderful to know that I only have five minutes to get to work now," she said. Duff was like so many others on the beach who came to celebrate a 1.6 mile concrete marvel. "I see a beautiful bridge," the Ocean Springs woman said.
And that $338 million bridge is once again the gateway to Ocean Springs.