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Not too many days ago, the headline of the Sun-Herald newspaper in Biloxi read, in big block letters, “Highway 90 Open!”

The tourist brochures have described Highway 90 as a scenic route bordered by miles of sandy beaches, ante-bellum mansions, first class hotels, motels and condos. Glossy pamphlets depicted activities for everyone in the family — waterslides, amusement parks, museums, aquariums, casinos and fabulous golf courses.

We went to Highway 90 this morning with visitors from Atlanta, Ga. As we turned onto the four-lane road, we passed the heavily damaged coliseum; convention center; and Beauvoir, the former home of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. Heading west there was the President Casino, nestled directly atop the former Holiday Inn. The casino has moved hundreds of feet west of its site south of 90. Continuing west we passed stacks and stacks of debris. It appeared that a giant hand had reached down and snatched up all the homes and businesses, plopping them back in pieces every which way along the highway. The homes and their white columns, pristine gardens, Spanish moss-laden stately oak trees and fragrant magnolias were no more.

As we approached Gulfport, the four lanes merged to two, and southwest we saw the rubble that was once the Bay St. Louis Bridge and our link to New Orleans. We could go no further, so we turned and headed east, driving directly alongside what was once a shoreline whose parking bays were full of cars and whose beach was full of fun.

Now, we saw just the lonely remains of homes and businesses — sometimes there were bricks, a concrete slab, maybe a chimney or a set of stairs reaching skyward. In some places there was nothing to show that there had ever been anything manmade there at all. The Treasure Bay Casino, a replica of Lafitte’s vessels, now looked like an authentic relic from the days of pirates along the Barbary Coast. Only some masts and ribs from the once majestic ship remained.

Further east we saw the gigantic Grand Casino, juxtapositioned on the opposite side of the highway from its foundation. We passed more casino ruins, the aquarium and the seafood museum. We did see hundreds of (not tourists along Highway 90), but volunteers from every other corner of the U.S. assisting in our recovery. Students from Boston College rallied to help rebuild the Vietnamese Catholic Church and other structures; folks from N.D.,, N.H.,, Calif., you name it — they were there.

At the end of our drive, we came upon piles of twisted metal and broken cement. The Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge was no more and we could go no further. How, we asked, could such a massive, sleek structure now be reduced to such a crumbled, accordion-pleated slab? Yes, the street lights are bright, the traffic signals are working, but Highway 90 is the road that goes nowhere.


Hurricane Katrina Survivors

Ayer High School

Classes of 1937 and 1938

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