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Rising from Ruin is an on-going MSNBC.com special report chronicling two coastal Mississippi towns, Bay St. Louis and Waveland, as they rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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This project is evolving. Our daily dispatches coverage has been retired. Click here to see what happened in the area between mid October and January 1, 2006.

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Click 'Play' to hear Dan Marine talk about his business plans for the future.

WAVELAND, Miss. -- Katrina’s flood waters had barely receded when Dan Marine was driving into the disaster zone, against the flow of cars moving north, trying to get out. It was three days after the hurricane hit, and he wanted to see the damage to his home and furniture business on Highway 90. He expected it to be bad, and it was.

"A day before the storm I was the biggest used furniture dealer in southern Mississippi. The day after, I was looking for a mattress to sleep on," he says.

The large cement block building that housed his store was standing, but all its contents were ruined, including his warehoused stock -- about $1 million worth of merchandise, uninsured. His house, which he and his wife had completed and moved into at the end of 2004, had floated off its blocks and landed about 50 yards away. It also was not insured for flooding.

After seeing the damage, he left briefly to get tools and a generator. By day six, he had cleared enough rubble to make way for a furniture truck, which he began living in as he started over.

Marine and his wife, Lauree, now live in their FEMA trailer behind the store with a pack of energetic dachshunds. The lot has been largely cleared, and the store has been emptied of the debris and mud, power-washed, bleached and power-washed again.

In the effort, Marine has suffered two bouts of infection from mold, and twice had to put his work on hold for rest and treatment with antibiotics.

Nonetheless, Marine this week reopened in a small way, operating out of the back of a truck and selling merchandise that he bought by running up credit cards. Some of his old customers are back, and that will help with day-to-day expenses.

"Hey, so I'm carrying on," he says.

Survival instinct

It is doubtless depressing at times, but for Marine the destruction apparently fueled the work ethic and survival instincts that led to his success to begin with.

"I just kind of shrugged my shoulders and said ‘oh well, I’ve got a lot of work to do now,'" he says, recalling his first look at his property. "Some people get depressed and they just can’t get out of bed. But you can’t allow circumstances that are out of your control to dictate your life," Marine says.

Experience taught him that. The business he had built was born out of tragedy 15 years ago. At the time, a bad car accident forced him to convalesce for months -- first in the hospital and then with family.

He had always worked construction before that, and his frustration with relying on others finally drove him to an idea. With his father’s help, he started selling used stuff at flea markets.

Initial sales grew until he could afford a retail space. Eventually, he rented part of a commercial building on Waveland’s main drag, Highway 90. Piece by piece, he came to own the building, the 3.25 acre parcel of land, and enough stock to fill it and two other warehouses in southern Mississippi. His cozy country-style house, which he had created from an out building, sat next to his store, Waveland Furniture Liquidators.

The power of purple

A lot of elbow grease, plus some novel ideas made it work. One of them was to paint the store a color that would appeal to women customers -- lavender.

"When I started with the color I had a motorcycle shop on one side of me and a tattoo shop on the other side of me … and I was thinking that a woman isn’t going to come within a hundred miles of here. So I put that color up there and everybody teased me, but they’re now gone, I own the buildings they were renting, and I’m still here," says Marine. Now, the color is often the thing people remember about the store, he says, even if they forget its name. "It’s the power of purple."

Katrina ruined Marine's recipe for success in a hurry. Now the store needs a new roof, all new wiring and other remodeling. The cost of replacing the roof alone was estimated at $25,000.

So Katrina has pushed Marine to look to the government for help for the first time, taking FEMA survival cash, signing up for unemployment and exploring government loans and grants to kick-start his business. Also, for the first time in his life, he is relying on his wife to generate income. She drives to Slidell every day to work at a friend’s furniture store while he rebuilds in Waveland.

"It’s a monumental task, when you look around," he says. Aside from the store, he has two other buildings on his property. "I’ll probably just tear them down, and build a strip mall. That way I can do rentals. I won’t have to work as hard, hopefully."

Meantime, the house remains where Katrina left it, off the foundation, and badly damaged. Marine was planning to haul it back into position, but is now beginning to think it may not be worth salvaging. It’s a shame, he says, because he and his wife poured a lot of money and care into their home and lived in it for less than a year.

But now he’s looking at fiberglass dome houses. As he talks about their attractive features -- the energy efficiency, the durability, the reported hurricane resistance of the structures -- Marine could just as well be describing himself, the tough, flexible guy who 15 years ago began pulling himself up by the bootstraps.

"There’s been a lot of people who started out with a peanut wagon on the streets," he says Marine. "It just takes perseverance. … You just put one foot in front of the other."

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30 COMMENTS

Go for the dome! If more of those hurricane-resistant domes were built, dwelling on the Gulf Coast would be much safer. Good luck to the Marine family - your hard work is inspiring.

Kudos, Mr. Marine. This country was built by people like you and your wife. We need to be more aware that there really are people like you now. Best wishes for all you and your wife dream of for the future and God Bless.

Great Attitude makes great things happen!!!!

Way to go! It's people like Dan Marine that make this country great!

Mr. Marine sold me the furniture that I furnished my son's first apartment with. I always felt his business was a blessing to me at a time when I was strapped for cash. May God bless him as he begins anew. God never shuts a door without opening a window.

Dan, you will be right back on top again because you have the right attitude. And if ever you don't feel like getting on your feet, just want to stay in bed and not face the day --- well, those adorable little dogs of yours won't let that happen. When I have felt like "is it really worth it", along comes my two dogs and two cats and I know it is more than worth it.

Dan, I've been to your store several times and saw the way you and your wife sometimes gave to people who needed. You also gave jobs to people who were down on their luck. God is going to bless you more than you can imagine. Keep up the good work.

Mr. Marine, your inspiring story puts a lot of everyday "problems" in proper perspective. "House-Cat Nike" and I hosted 10 Katrina evacuees from New Orleans with five dogs; the experience changed my life. I'm considering adopting dogs and maybe children. There's always hope, and positive outcome from even disasters. May need to drive over to buy some furniture for these extra folks in my home.

My heart goes out to you. I live in Slidell, LA and God was very good to me. I did not lose my house but did lose my small medical transcription business and just like you after the shock wore off I just got started again. Hang in there you can make it happen.

Dan is an example of the type of individual this nation was founded for and by--keep up the positive attitude!!!!

God Bless you! Mr Marine you are the spirit of America!Katrina and Rita have brought out the pioneer spirit of Gulf coast residents.You all will perservere and rise from the ashes and rubble, stronger and better.Keep the positive vibes!!

Mr. Marine I'm not an American but I lived in east coast 1/2 of my life and I can ensure You that all the good things that You do for other people will get back to You 100 time over good or bad. God will give You stregth

Mr. Marine, My husband are coming down to volunteer at Camp Katrina that is setup in the K-Mart parking lot of Hwy 90 on Monday, Nov. 21 through Wednesday, Nov. 23. I was so excited to see the article about you on MSNBC.com since I am on the way down there. Come eat a meal with us at Camp Katrina, so that we can meet you. What a witness you are for everyone who has been affected by Katrina. We had to evacuate my mother out of Laurel, MS after Katrina hit. Laurel alsoo looked like a war zone. I hope to meet you and I will look to see if I can see any of the purple building that might be left.

Disasters reveal the best and the worst in people. This is a story about the best and we need to hear more stories like this.

Thank you Mr. Marine for being a living example to all of us.

Mr. Marino, kudos for you. It's wonderful to hear that you are not letting things get you down. People like you are good models for those of us who would rather give up. May you be successful in re-building. Waveland is where my family retired years ago. I have spent many summers there as a child. Thank you for what you are doing. By the way. I do remember the purple building which I saw in my more recent visits to Waveland. My aunt might have been one of your customers.
Henrica Buchert

Dear

Hi! How are you? I am keeping fine, and wishing you all the same. I need some information’s regarding environment pollution. Because in my neighborhood there are some activities that creates environment pollution. Burning plastics, rig-forms, wires, and some other materials and stuffs, collecting rust/corrosive (garbage) things. Make heavy noise (sound pollution) when they do stuff with iron planation. It’s so dangerous to our health what they are doing. I informed Environment Authority, nearest police station. So, do you know any way you can help me. I need to get more information’s relating that and any international organization or any e-mails of your friends that I can contact with and get more details to make better case against them. And if you do have any more comments please let me know.
Stop writing here; hope to hear from you soon.

Lots of Love,
nihal

I work for the powercompany in ohio, I saw the destruction, I respect all of you with the heart to rebuild. May god bless you all.

Never give up.

evelyn says hope u r fine be good ull make it hard head

Ya'll are an inspiration! Wouldn't it lovely if more of our nation took on your Oh! so very positive attitude? The WORLD would be forever changed! Keep the faith - as you know, you will persevere and succeed!!!! The very best to you and yours!!!

Ya'll are an inspiration! Wouldn't it lovely if more of our nation took on your Oh! so very positive attitude? The WORLD would be forever changed! Keep the faith - as you know, you will persevere and succeed!!!! The very best to you and yours!!!

Mr Marino,

Your true grit attitude and can do spirit is what legends like John Wayne are made of. You reflect the pioneer American image that has not been seen in this nation for almost 100 years, keep up the good work and you will overcome Katrina's destruction. It's people like you that make me proud to be an American, good luck to you and your family and may God give you strength.

Mr. M.

I'm inspired by your actions, keep going forward and good things happen to those who work hard and have a vision. You are a inspiration to all. Good luck and I know the lord will give you strength. And take care of those little dogs, they need you more than ever.

Mr. & Mrs. Marine:
My brother and his wife lived in Pass Christain and they too lost everything and yet like you two their faith is strong and they are determine to rebuild. They are awaiting a trailer from FeMA so they can get closer to home to begin rebuilding. My neice Karen has a say, "If God brought you to it, He will lead you through it. He always does... Keep the faith.

Dan, I have bought several pieces from you over the years, especially for kid's rooms---the price was always right, and I am happy to see that you are still rocking because lots of folks need your services---I'll probably be around to see you myself in the coming year. Merry Christmas and hang in there! Pam West

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