Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beauty from the Ashes - Bridge Mosaics

All images in this post not otherwise credited, are my original photographs and are copyright of My New 30 Blog, whether watermarked or not; images are not to be used, copied, altered or transferred without prior written permission of the owner.

I realize that this post is a bit long, and future installments of Beauty from the Ashes won't have all this background, so you can skip the introduction and scroll on down to the Bridge Mosaics if you prefer. I hope you'll hang with me through to the end though, or maybe you'll come back when you have time to read the whole thing.

So often, after a major natural disaster there is that awkward silence that occurs among people who live elsewhere whenever the issue is mentioned. We often have no idea what to say, so we say nothing, and hope that the people and the community are recovering.

Despite that the break of the levees in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and the human horror that occurred there got most of the media attention, the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast suffered tremendously from the hurricane itself - destruction that stretched from the Louisiana coast of Mississippi to the Alabama coast.

Even Alabama and the Florida panhandle suffered the effects. Trust me ... because we live right on the Gulf, we sought refuge with a friend who lives far inland in Alabama. Through the height of the storm things were so frightening up there, that I knew I was going to come home to a Mississippi that would be forever changed. My inlaws, many of our family members and friends, and thousands of residents of the Mississippi Gulf Coast came home to find only slabs and literally nothing else.

But, we are coming back, slowly but surely, bigger, better, stronger and more beautiful than before, and if it weren't for the greed of the insurance industry, it would have been faster - but that is a whole 'nother story, that'll throw me into a major Southern Style Hissy Fit, so I'll spare y'all that for now.

There was so much loss in so many ways from that storm. Beauty from the Ashes is a series I'm doing to outline those things born out of the destruction from Katrina that bring a ray of sunshine and hope. Not that I am an overtly "religious" person, but the series is based on Old Testament scripture from Isaiah 61:3, because this speaks to restoration and making whole. "To give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness."

If you have a major body of water that separates two metropolitan areas where you live, you know how critical these bridges are. They are really the lifeblood of a city, not only connecting the two cities, but for us here, the entire coastline, really.

(view of the adjacent railroad bridge taken
from the top of the new Biloxi Bay Bridge)

After Katrina, the Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge {or the Biloxi Bay Bridge as it is now known}, a major thoroughfare between Biloxi and Ocean Springs, and to other coastal areas of Mississippi, was literally destroyed. People would come to the foot of the bridge, me being one of them, and just stare in silence and disbelief at this twisted pile of concrete. There was going to be no quick fix for this.

For more than two years, the eastern peninsula of Biloxi located at the foot of the bridge, in an area known as Casino Row, became a virtual dead end. Drivers had to re-route out to the interstate and then backtrack back to the Gulf further west, just to get back to areas along the beach at Highway 90; areas that normally were just a quick trip over the bridge. But there wasn't much left down there at the time, and not a lot of reason to travel back east along Highway 90.

That dead end at the foot of the bridge in Biloxi became a near ghost town.

The resiliency of Mississippi shines through though. We pulled up our boot straps and got to work on recovery and thanks to loads of volunteers from all across this fine country, you'd never know it today. That area, and other areas of Highway 90 along the beach, have literally been injected with life and today is active, alive and well.

This is another shot of the Biloxi Bay Bridge on the Ocean Springs side, right after Katrina. In the background to the right, where pilings are sticking out of the ground, is where stood the Ocean Springs Yacht Club. It was a small building, worn with time, but nothing was left of it after the storm.

But, this is the Ocean Springs Yacht Club today. This raised building style is becoming quite common here these days, especially along the beachfront, and this building - heads above the old yacht club - is simply beautiful.

Stay with me! I'm about to show you something even more beautiful that resides in this very area, just to the right side of this gorgeous new yacht club building. Something of beauty that rose out of this very area marred by the destruction in that other photo above.

While it would be two years before the new bridge was even partially open to traffic, it truly seemed a lifetime. There was such anticipation and joy over the opening when the time finally came and it would be April of 2008 before the bridge was fully completed. This is a shot approaching the newly constructed bridge from the Ocean Springs side. Down on the lower left hand side, where you see cars parked is where I am taking you, to see the beautiful bridge mosaics. You can also see the top roof section of the new yacht club.

When plans for a new bridge were in the design phase, Connie Moran, the mayor of Ocean Springs, fought to have a bridge that was not only functional, but one that would include a safe, well lit pedestrian walking path stretching from Ocean Springs to Biloxi, and a bridge that would be aesthetically pleasing to the eye, in line with post-storm charrettes. From her fight, several panels were constructed along the lower east Ocean Springs side of the bridge that use mosaics to depict life along the Coast.

Elizabeth Veglia, a mixed media artist from Pass Christian, well known for her mosaic art, created each of the panels. She also created the mosaic from the Hurricane Camille memorial {Camille was another hurricane that hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast in 1969, coming on land just about the same area where Katrina hit} that while seriously damaged by Katrina, was found with the mosaic to be fully intact. Ms. Veglia also designed the mosaics within the Hurricane Katrina memorial orchestrated by the television program, Extreme Home Makeover.

Let's first visit that memorial.

The Katrina Memorial is located at the Biloxi Town Green public square, downtown Biloxi, across from the Hard Rock casino. The mosaic represents the waves from the much loved Gulf of Mexico that were driven in as an angry storm surge backed by hurricane winds, leaving a path of destruction behind. The memorial, dedicated in February of 2006 by candlelight vigil, was constructed to honor the precious lives taken by Hurricane Katrina. It stands 12 feet high, roughly the height of the storm surge at Town Green during the storm.

At one end of the memorial is a memorial box. The Extreme Home Makeover team put out a public request for people to bring anything that was found in the storm rubble that was memorable or had some meaning. What resulted was a menagerie of a sort of memory box, time capsule, that would be forever encased for public display.

Now, I want to show you those beautiful mosaic panels that are underneath the Biloxi Bay Bridge, in Ocean Springs, at the Ocean Springs beach. This is a look at that very same area in the photograph above that shows the destruction of the bridge and the Ocean Springs Yacht Club.

There are a total of 4 panels. I like the way that the design is flowing, like the water.

See the waves cut into the concrete at the bottom of each panel? The fencing above is the 12-foot wide, pedestrian walkway and bicycle lane, just over 3 miles round trip. Despite the heat, a nice breeze blows across the bridge from the Gulf of Mexico, making it a very pleasant walk. There are trash receptacles and benches, all along the way for resting, or just taking a moment to admire the 95-feet high view. You would be amazed at the number of people who are using this bridge for exercise.

Here are photos of each mosaic panel, in no particular order. Enjoy.

At the end of the panels, right next to the Ocean Springs Yacht Club, I took a shot looking up from the foot of the bridge. Caught a fella fishing down there, but didn't disturb him to see if he was catching anything. I think the bridge is simply a beautiful design, don't you?

Time to head back and take another peek at the panels on the way out.

Out of destruction, beauty rises. I hope that you enjoyed the tour!

For all those who sacrificed their time, their vacations, and their sweat to volunteer and come work in the heat and humidity to help South Mississippians recover their lives, we are truly indebted to you and can never express how much it has meant to us. God bless you all.

Photo Credit: City of Biloxi

Next: Katrina-born Tree Sculptures around the Coast - Artist, Marlin Miller


  1. Absolutely gorgeous! thanks for sharing the positive things that have happened since katrina..Beauty does come from ashes!
    I saw the Extreme makeover show with this memorial and it was awsome.

  2. WOW, those were amazing. I love Mosiacs.

    I've enjoyed being subscribed to your blog... I enjoy my visits here daily. I am a recent subscriber... and I've tried the best Southern Tea recipe... Since I've lived in the South my whole life I thought could it really be better than mine??? lol

    The truth is, you were right about the bitterness.. I used to leave my tea bags in until the pitcher was gone. Which in my house isn't long... now I remove them after 9 minutes.

    Thanks for the tip. I'm glad I've found your blog.

    Stop by for a visit any time you are able. I love meeting other southern women!

  3. Wow Mary, that was a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing these things. A Utah girl like me would never get a chance to hear about or see.

  4. What a beautiful post.
    Just gorgeous!
    Your photos are just great and I can not wait to come down your way and see the mosics.

  5. Love to see the positive additions. That scripture is so perfect for this situation--the memorial is gorgeous! How touching- the photos and your words and the works of men and the hand of God in the restoration He specializes in!

  6. A beautiful site! I enjoyed your post!☼

  7. What gorgeous mosaics and a beautiful bridge. Like the Phoenix rises from the ashes, Biloxi and the Gulf coast rises from the destruction. Thank you for sharing this story with us.
    I remember watching Katrina's destruction on TV, but you are really bringing it to life for me.

  8. Beautiful bridge--beautiful area too. I am so glad to see it coming back so nicely. My mom wants me to hurry down to visit because she wants to walk the bridge with me--I don't know if I can though. The two things I am most afraid of in this world--bodies of water and bridges. I have a very hard time driving over bridges much less walking over them. I'll give it a try for her though!! Still loving your blog. Sheila in NC--PS Thanks for stopping by my attempt at a blog!!

  9. I did enjoy the tour. This was a wonderful post on many levels.

  10. Thank you so much for sharing. The Mosaics are beautiful. Thank you for updating on the progress after the devastation.

  11. Living in Florida, I can relate to that fear you spoke of. I haven't yet personally experienced a total devastation however I watched as one pass by... about 25 miles or so outside the eye. Rain was forced through the windows along the panes of glass. I couldn't image that would even be possible, until it happened. The rain was parallel with the ground at times. I think that was one of the scariest four hours I have ever experienced.

    I made a stop in Biloxi over the last Thanksgiving holiday. Wish you had posted this elegant, wonderfully uplifting story back then I would have definitely visited the mosaics. I clicked the pics, how awesome! This is a beautiful post. I'm looking forward to reading the next.

  12. Mary, Excellent Post! I so enjoyed reading this and looking at the photos! Tracie

  13. Your photos are so 'tellin' of the destruction in MS besides that of New Orleans. You're right to let people know that N.O. was not the only place that suffered from Kagtrina. Good luck with your photography work . . . I like it!

  14. it is just so sad to see the devastating aftermath, but the human spirit and the resiliency of the residents is so inspiring.

  15. Beautiful Mary. Thank you for sharing this with us :)

  16. Hello stranger! For some crazy computer glitch reason, I have been unable to access your blog for over a week. I am so glad to read your posts again.

    What a wonderful post and such beautiful pictures of the land you love and the triumph over destruction. The mosaics truly are gorgeous, thank you for sharing them. If I'm ever in Mississippi, I'll definitely have to check them out in person.

  17. I really enjoyed these pictures Mary! They were great! Thanks for the tour!

  18. Thanks for coming by my blog and thanks for the tips on the scarves at Geronimo's grave. I've never heard of the Irish Raggedy bush, I'm intrigued, I'll have to look it up. Being from the Ozarks, the bottle tree is very familiar. LOL

  19. A wonderful post. I really enjoyed looking at these pictures.

  20. cool pics. stopping by from SITS. have a great weekend.

  21. It's almost that time, isn't Mary? August 29th is coming soon. On returning to the coast after our evacuation from Katrina, I also knew it would be bad. I just never imagined it would be so bad. Being a native coastian I know the importance of those bridges, saw the destruction first hand, and celebrate the beauty of the memorials and re-building right along side you! It has been only through God that I have been able to find comfort from the tragedy and recognize His awesome power and the good that has come out of the ashes.

  22. I so enjoyed the tour! Thank you. It's so beautiful.
    I love America! Not saying that because I am overly patriotic, but because of the people...like you and your neighbors and friends. Such love and pride in their communities.
    I love to hear about different places in the United States. I want to come visit Mississippi.
    As Mary said...a great post on "many" levels.

    ps I love where I live, it's home, but your place is so gorgeous! I feel jealous for a minute. LOL


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