Pass Christian, Mississippi, which residents lovingly call The Pass, is the charming beach town I had the opportunity to fall in love with through my college roommates. With diverse architecture, from Greek Revival to Creole to Victorian, I adored the gorgeous homes and beautiful live oaks that lined Scenic Drive looking out toward the Gulf of Mexico.
The small, quiet town boasted a family oriented Mardi gras and an upscale Yacht Club. The residents refused to allow the touristy businesses that marred many coastal towns. They did have a couple of restaurants, one I specifically remember called Pirates Cove, which served up delicious po boys, and there were quaint gift and antique stores. I always looked forward to visits where we’d dine on fresh seafood and go out to stroll the beach.
August 29, 2005, forever changed the landscape and life for the delightful town and its residents. Eighty-five percent of Pass Christian and virtually every single public building was damaged or destroyed. The monster storm tore through with a thirty foot storm surge, ripping away homes, including the one where my former roommates grew up and their parents still resided. The town they’d known was no more. They lost their very way of life. There were no Sunday lunches at Grandma’s, because there was no place to go.
With no infrastructure, no street signs, and dangerous debris (like boats, trucks, school buses and more) littering the landscape for miles, mainly just work crews were allowed to enter the area for months. Wreckage piled thirty feet high in some places. I came with a church work crew after the storm, and there were very few landmarks left to even recognize where you were. I felt as though I was walking through a Salvador Dali painting.
This week, my husband and I cruised down Highway 90 that treks along the Mississippi Coast from Ocean Springs to Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi. There are still miles of empty coastal property, sidewalks and driveways that lead to nothing but empty lots. It’s mind boggling to see, ten years later, a place that I cared about forever changed.
However, though wounded and scarred, the Mississippi coast and Pass Christian are slowly showing signs of recovery. We walked around downtown Pass Christian and enjoyed a latte at the Cat Island Coffeehouse and Bookstore. New homes are being built on some of the empty lots. Shops have returned—The Pass Christian Soap Company and The Purple Pelican are a couple of lovely examples.
The people who endured one of America’s worst natural disasters and survived often feel as though Katrina’s devastating impact on the Mississippi Gulf Coast is forgotten or overshadowed by the deadly flooding in New Orleans.
I lived three hours inland, and the storm howled and roared uprooting trees in every yard in my neighborhood, a number of them landing on rooftops. We had no power or phone service for a week, which was nothing compared to what happened south of us. My heart and my prayers are still with my coastal friends.
For more about Hurricane Katrina and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I’ve attached links below.
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Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson