UPDATE: Events mark Katrina anniversary

South Mississippi groups will hold several events, starting today, designed to reflect on Hurricane Katrina or highlight progress in recovering from the storm, which happened four years ago Saturday.

Some will also point out some of the needs that still exist four years after the storm. Reflection is healthy, South Mississippi officials said.

“It’s important that you take stock of where you are and how far you have come and that just reminds you of how far you have to go,” said Vincent Creel, public affairs manager for the City of Biloxi. “We expect it to be a somewhat emotional day in some respects, not just for Biloxi, but for all communities along the Gulf Coast. Everyone has made progress in their own way.”

Biloxi officials will mark some construction milestones today with the opening the reconstructed section of Howard Avenue, which was not storm-related work, and with a groundbreaking for the 71,000-square-foot downtown library and civic center. They will also break ground on the Biloxi lighthouse visitor’s center today. Saturday, there will be a multi-faith memorial service, with prayers for storm’s victims, volunteers, first responders and others, which will be followed with the unveiling of a 24-foot wood sculpture of a marlin on the Town Green.

The artwork is much like the other Marlin Miller wood carvings along U.S. 90 in Biloxi, with the primary difference being that this one will be painted the color of an actual marlin, rather than left looking closer to the natural shade of the wood.

Ocean Springs will hold a Hurricane Katrina Fourth Anniversary Forum hosted by Mayor Connie Moran and architects and planners.

An event titled “WOW — Walking on Water Bridge Walk and Canned Food Drive” starts on both ends of the Biloxi-Ocean Springs Bridge Saturday. Walkers can tackle any length of the bridge they’d like, organizers said. The donated canned food will go to the Salvation Army, The Lord is My Help and Back Bay Mission.

”There are still some people in our community that still need help,” said Adele C. Lyons, program director for Biloxi/Gulfport with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which is sponsoring the event.

The Steps Coalition has a hearty Katrina-related itinerary for the weekend. Roberta Avila, the group’s executive director, said they will issue a “report card” that evaluates the area’s recovery from the storm. She said there’s been some progress on the area’s post-Katrina housing troubles, noting that Congress recently approved funds for thousands of housing vouchers in South Mississippi for those who meet certain guidelines, but finding places to live still remains a major issue for many. There will be a film on the state of human rights issues here Saturday, which will be followed by a March from New Bethel Church in Biloxi, where the film is being shown, to Henry Beck Park.

In Bay St. Louis, Hands On will hold a “Katrina Anniversary Day of Service” where volunteers will help spruce up City Park. “Story boxes” illustrating volunteerism and survival will be built, areas of the park will also be dressed up with hand decorated art tiles. There will also be a four-part mural installed featuring famous landmarks around Bay St. Louis. Hands On will also take donations for Biloxi’s “Safespace” a non-profit that works with the “residentially challenged.”

“Hopefully we are going to get a lot of volunteers,” said Ashley Cartagena, of Hands On Gulf Coast.

Gov. Haley Barbour and First Lady Marsha Barbour will participate in several events, including one in Long Beach on Saturday, where Habitat for Humanity officials will celebrate the opening of their first large scale development. There will also be a grand opening for the “Marsha Barbour Resource Center” on Kiln-DeLisle Road in Pass Christian, among others.

Click here for special Associated Press video about Hurricane Katrina anniversary.

Michael Newsom/The Sun Herald (MCT)