Destruction of a 97-year-old column leaves Biloxi neighborhood distraught

Updated: Sep. 2, 2017 at 10:19 PM CDT
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BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - For close to a century, twin columns have stood at the entrance to the Oak Park neighborhood. Now, only one stands while the other lies in ruins on the curb.

Brenda Bass watched in agony as a truck demolished a column at her neighborhood's entrance, horrified that she couldn't do anything to protect it.

"I'm watching and he's coming forward. I mean backward, and backward, and backward, and I'm thinking, 'No! No! No! Don't! Don't! Don't!' and he obliterates our column" said Bass.

A truck driver making a delivery to the Keesler Air Force base on Friday didn't know the gate was closed for Labor Day weekend. The driver tried to back out, but ran into the 97-year-old pillar, smashing it to pieces and leaving neighbors devastated.

"Our neighbors take a lot of pride in these columns, they've been here since the 1920s," said Bass.

The City of Biloxi owns one of the columns, and Keesler owns the one on their side of the street. Even though the Oak Park neighborhood doesn't own the columns, people who live there say they cared for and loved them as if they did.

The problem: The intersection of Bayview and Kensington isn't wide enough for trucks to simply turn around and back out. Bass says the situation isn't new, and it was only a matter of time before the worst happened.

"There's always a problem, This is the second time this has happened. The first time it only leaned the column, this time it actually wiped it out," said Bass.

Bass and several of her neighbors don't blame Keesler for the accident, but they do believe this could have been easily avoided if someone just told the driver the gate was going to be closed.

In an email, officials at the base owned up to the lack of communication, saying they are committed to making sure problems like this don't happen again and mentioned construction on a new gate that will move trucks out of residential areas.

The email says in part:

"We understand and respect the concerns of our Oak Park neighbors and will continue to partner with local officials and find ways to prevent these types of incidents in the future.  This event emphasizes the importance of our long-term solution to issues like these in the form of the new main gate we are building on Division St. The new gate will move heavy vehicles, such a as the one involved in this incident, out of the Oak Park neighborhood."

In the meantime, residents will have to deal with the causality.

"It's out of our hands, basically, now because the City of Biloxi is handling it," said Bass.

Because the city owns the column, it had to file a police report. The public works department is looking into the matter and will estimate the repair cost.

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