Once a year I travel to the Mississippi Gulf Coast for pleasure. Until last week, my last trip was in March of 2005. It's a year that will forever be engraved on the minds and hearts of those in Mississippi and New Orleans. Katrina hit on Aug. 29, 2005. The once-beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast took the direct hit.
I first saw that distinctive coastline in 1968 -- before the devestating Hurricane Camille hit.
How wonderful it was! On one side there was an unspoiled, (I learned later) manmade beach. On the other side of Beach Boulevard were lush, broad green lawns with spreading, ancient oaks that sheltered the vernacular white houses with inviting front porches. Even after Camille, most of the wonderful old houses remained.
In the past dozen years Biloxi has established itself as a mini Las Vegas with about a dozen huge casinos and multi-story hotels to house the visitors. Even though the mushrooming of these gambling resorts affected (somewhat negatively) the uniqueness of the coast, I have to confess they were the lure for my husband and me. We loved to stay at Casino Magic hotel, which billed itself as Mississippi's first four-star hotel. I suspect Biloxi's Beau Rivage resort became the state's second four-star resort.
Sadly, Casino Magic now stands against the backdrop of green gulf waters, untouched, all its Katrina pounding still visible. No efforts made to rebuild.
Not so with Beau Rivage. At this stunning resort, a huge digital clock is counting down the minutes and seconds until its grand reopening: exactly one year after Katrina decimated the region. The casino is bringing in Tony Bennett to entertain.
Last week I was amazed to see those hundred-year-old oaks still standing even though all of the once-grand houses they sheltered were gone. It was encouraging to see that houses away from the storm's savage surge area were salvagable. All had new roofs -- and, I suspect, new interior sheetrock necessitated by flooding.
I'm glad that many of the gambling resorts are rebuilding. That -- and the revenues they bring in -- will help the gulf to rebuild. I believe I heard the the Biloxi casinos contributed (prior to Katrina) $1 million a day to the state's treasury. It might have been $1 million a week. Can't remember for sure.
But I'm unbelievably saddened over the loss of the character of Mississippi's coastline. Old homes and buildings cannot be replaced. And that's a terrible loss. It would be really sad if the Missippi coastline turns into a Gulf Shores, Alabama, coastline where passersby can't even see the gulf through the stack-'em-tall-and-deep maze of blah, multi-story boxes of condos and hotels.