North Charleston responders turn tables on Biloxi

The North Charleston Police and Fire departments on Saturday presented a shadowbox featuring a photograph, patches and coins to commemorate their relief efforts in Biloxi for more than two weeks after Hurricane Katrina.

“A contingent of 16 police officers and 15 firefighters from North Charleston arrived in Biloxi on Sept. 1, and the Biloxi police and firefighters made us feel like we were part of the family,” Sgt. Al Hallman of the North Charleston Police Department said during a brief ceremony in the Lopez-Quave Public Safety Center. “They took us in and made us feel like WE were the victims. We’re just here today to say thank you. We created this display to let you know that you are still in our thoughts and if you need help, we’re just a phone call away.”

During their 16-day stay in Biloxi, North Charleston responders worked alongside Biloxi firefighters in search and recovery efforts, while police officers helped traffic control during the day and patrolled city streets enforcing curfews at night.

“When we got here, it was like ‘Wow,” said Hallman, who is on the Mississippi Coast for a family reunion at the home of his aunt, Jo Grierson of Pascagoula. “Before we got here, they tried to prepare us for what we would see, but there’s no way you can prepare for this type of devastation and destruction. That first night, we just sat around the camp just staring at each other.”

Hallman said a second contingent of responders was enroute to Biloxi from North Charleston, a city of nearly 90,000, but all were ordered home when North Charleston faced its own hurricane threat.

The display, which will hang in the Lopez-Quave center, features a photograph of the North Charleston responders, along with “Biloxi” a stranded dog that was adopted by one of the responders.

The presentation was made to a group of Biloxi police officers and firefighters, led by Biloxi Assistant Police Chief Rodney McGilvary and Fire Chief David Roberts.

“Can you imagine?” McGilvary said after the ceremony. “All the help they gave us, and they’re back to thank us. It’s incredible. We’ll be forever grateful to the men and woman in the police and fire departments in North Charleston, and to all the people in their community.”