Foundation strong amid ruins
Published 1:15 am Monday, June 12, 2006
The invitation advised “wedding casual” attire.
In a beachside church whose only air conditioning came through half-washed away walls, “casual” was the right way to go.
The bride and groom are planners by trade, so perhaps it's appropriate they married last week amid the ruins of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, one of the greatest planning opportunities in the country since Hurricane Katrina reshaped the shoreline.
Gretchen and Jeff said their vows at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Long Beach, Miss., where only a shell of a building remains after the storm surge washed away much of the bricks and mortar.
But the high, round stained glass windows of the A-frame church are intact, as is the marble altar.
Even with those distinguishing characteristics, we drove right past the church on our first venture down Highway 90, also known as Beach Boulevard.
Street signs have been replaced by hastily spray-painted pieces of plywood pointing the way to changed neighborhoods.
Fast food and drug store signs stand sentinel over empty lots and piles of debris, a reminder of what everyday life was like on Aug. 28, 2005.
Even eight months after Katrina slammed into the coast, little has been rebuilt. Much of the work done has been cleaning up, removing debris.
For two people who had not seen the coast beyond photos and television coverage of the aftermath of the hurricane, the scene was nearly devastating.
But our friends about to embark on the next phase of their lives see glimpses of hope. Gretchen no longer notices what's gone when she drives down Highway 90 to work; she looks at what is being rebuilt.
And the wedding was not in a ruined place, but one of hope and rebirth.
It was the perfect metaphor.
Marriage is a work in progress, but if you start with a strong foundation - especially one rooted in faith - you cannot go wrong.
Make no mistake; the people of the coast are still hurting. Planners like Gretchen and Jeff have years of work ahead of them, as do architects and government officials and construction workers and merchants and everyday residents just trying to get back to normal.
But their foundation is strong, just as it was for two people with the courage to start their lives together amid the ruins.
Kerry Whipple Bean is publisher of The Brewton Standard. She can be reached at 251-867-4876 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.