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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.

Background on the towns and this project is available under the about tab above.

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WAVELAND, Miss. – In the place they consider heaven on Earth, Hancock County residents gathered in the hellish heat Wednesday morning to mark the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

“It is certainly a joy right now to be worried about sweating and not swimming,” joked Brian McDonald, director of the Mississippi Office for Rebuilding and Renewal. Swimming – for their lives – was precisely what many of the 100 or so citizens who attended the ceremony at the beachfront Veterans’ Memorial in Waveland were doing at that moment in 2005 as Katrina’s flood surge rolled ashore.

The Waveland gathering was one of several events scheduled for Wednesday’s anniversary, from sunrise church services, to an afternoon visit by President Bush and the first lady, to an evening Chamber of Commerce gala.

McDonald’s bit of humor was fitting for the upbeat, homespun Waveland ceremony. Mayor Tommy Longo, who presided, heaped praise for recovery efforts on his fellow elected officials, the area’s emergency workers, volunteers and the “strong, resilient, self-reliant, caring people” of Hancock County.

“The world saw a true Mississippi as it had never been seen before and it’s because of each and every one of you,” Longo told the sweat-stained crowd, suit jackets and sports coats long removed, as they gulped cans and bottles of water, fanned themselves with their programs and sought any bit of shade they could find on the barren bulkhead overlooking the Mississippi Gulf.

The ceremony featured prayers and readings from a trio of local pastors. The names of the 57 county residents who perished in the storm were read by Longo, Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre and county Board of Supervisors President Rocky Pullman. A wreath was placed in the gulf. A moment of silence was followed by the barely audible sounding, from far across town, of Waveland’s restored emergency siren.

As the crowd joined in to sing “God Bless America,” a score of colorful balloons was released to float gently out of view against the brilliant blue Mississippi sky and a passing cloud bank.

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9 COMMENTS

I am proud to be called an American because of the spirit of the people in Mississippi and Louisana! They have exhibited the true spirit of America and will continue to do so. I was one of the volunteers who met the planes when they landed at Otis Air Force Base, Cape Cod..Never will I forget these incredible souls who came off that plane, still wet with the ravages of Katrina clinging to their bodies and tearing at their souls..men and women, children, disabled and some of their pets, struggling into the unknown pine shrouded area of Otis Air Force Base..they must have felt like they were landing on the moon! Yet, in spite of all the terrible fears, their Southern graciousness met our Northern hand of hope. And, HOPE was what we all tried to pass along to them at that moment and beyond. True American spirit that knows no boundaries marked by region, race, culture, personal histories or destructiveness of the elements. Again, the "Melting Pot" symbolizing the true America shone out, again and again, and again. We MUST NEVER FORGET that we are all one in America.The lashes of Katrina has shown us all that lesson..hopefuly, we'll continue to stay teachable and hopeful for all our tomorrows..continued Blessings to all..

It was my privilege to serve two tours of duty at "Camp Katrina" in Waveland and Bay St. Louis in late 2005 and early 2006. My prayers and support continue to be with you all. You are not forgotten. May God bless you as you continue to rebuild. Isaiah 6:11-13.

To my knowledge, there has not been one mention of all the millions of dollars donated to the Katrina disaster by celebs who put on concerts to raise money for these people. Is there ANYONE who can tell us where that money went?

I saw last night, August 29th 2007,the HBO special about Hurricane Katrina and the after mass of the flood. God help me, I really truely did't have a full understanding of the situation there. Bits and parts of the story are not anything like what the actual happenings that these true heros are still going thru even after 2 years. if any of this is a learning experience, we as Americans need to vote for a better government that is for the people and not for their ego's.

I am still upset with the media and the government that have chosen to under report the devastating effects of the similar hurricane Rita that hit west of New Orleans just weeks after Katrina. I am not saying that Katrina didn't deserve the coverage and support, but who remembers Rita? and what about the other hurricanes that have hit Florida in the past? ok people we are all humans and we all suffered the same. lets be fair

I think it is ashame that the United States of America can allow its people to go without for so long. They knew that the storm was coming NOBODY warned that state. Can anybody say September 11th. How could Oprah build a school in Africa? How could she fly over the damaged live of the Katrina victims? How can we as a people sleep at night knowing that all this is going on and try to show symppthy, in bring reefs to a FAKE Ceremony. WHAT

Who's to say our government isn't sending money to help these people out, and the local government is not getting the necessary funds to those people. I agree there is too much local and upper level buricratic bullcrap, but unless we speak out at stand up and demand some answers we will continue blaming the current government for ALL the problems, and expect them to fix all of our problems. How many of you out there complaining about our government actually gave to the cause to help these people? Think twice before you complain if you have not helped to fight the cause.

The true obstacles to progress on the rebuilding of the Coast are the mayors of Waveland and Bay Saint Louis. Impeach them or throw them out. You would not believe what goes on in City Hall in these cities.

Two years ago, I visited Mississippi (Long Beach) for the first time. The devastation was horrific. The people were amazing. I told myself that one day I would return to see the MS Gulf Coast as it is supposed to be. This story gives me hope and renews my conviction that the people of Mississippi will rebuild and recover. You are all simply incredible.

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