Our best days lie ahead, Holloway tells memorial audience

Here is the prepared text of Mayor A.J. Holloway’s comments delivered during the “Katrina & Biloxi: One Year Later” memorial observance on Aug. 29, 2006 on the Biloxi Town Green.

Secretary Chertoff, Senators Cochran and Lott, Governor Barbour, distinguished guests on the platform and in the audience here on the Town Green, to the thousands of volunteers and relief workers from across the audience, many of whom are here today, to the people of Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and to our statewide radio audience:

As mayor of Biloxi, I say thank you.

Thank you for the support, the compassion, the inspiration, the encouragement, the hard work. Thank you for being here.

In all of history, there has never been such massive destruction as on the level of Hurricane Katrina. This hurricane was an equal opportunity offender. Nothing and no one was untouched.

  I look around here today, and I remember back to a few weeks after the storm, when Senator Cochran led a delegation of a dozen or so U.S. senators to tour the damage at Keesler Air Force Base.

The group included Ted Kennedy, Joe Liebermann and Bill Frist, to name a few. When I spoke to them at lunch, I told them that we hadn’t seen this much federal power in Biloxi since the Kefauver hearings.

Sen. John Warner pulled me aside and said, “Mayor Holloway, I’m an old man. I’ve been through three wars and five wives, but I’ve never seen anything as bad as this.”

Ted Kennedy grabbed me and said, “Mayor, watch out for those damn insurance companies,” and he pointed to Joe Lieberman and said, “and he’s from Connecticut where most of them are from.”

Over the past several days and weeks, I’ve been asked a question over and over by the national media.

They get here and they say Biloxi looks like it’s making great progress in the recovery. Why is that, they ask? I tell them it’s two reasons.

The first is the people. Governor Barbour likes to say that we are not into victim-hood. We took a hit.

We got knocked down, but we picked ourselves up. We hitched up our britches and we went about the business of rebuilding our homes, our businesses and our lives.

The second thing I tell them is about the Biloxi of old. The Biloxi we all loved and will always love.

I remember watching the shrimp boats pulling into the factories. The smell of the salt air and the sunset breezes coming off the beachfront.

Seeing the Biloxi schooners sail along the waterfront. Sitting around the kitchen table and talking with your neighbors.

The governor has said repeatedly that as part of our recovery, he wants to see a renaissance down here on the Gulf Coast.

I hear you governor, and I agree. But here in Biloxi, we were in the midst of a renaissance before this storm.

Biloxi was not broke or BROKEN before the storm.

We were doing a lot of things right – like investing in affordable housing, public education, historic preservation, public safety, parks and recreation, streets and drainage, lowering taxes and the list goes on and on.

But it always comes back to the people. The people of Biloxi have a passion for life, a passion for living. Always have, always will.

As we move into the future, we’re going to use the past as our guide. We’re going to Revive the Renaissance that we were enjoying before this storm.

Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast are once again going to be the places that we loved and called home.

We’re going to be that place where people want to come back over and over.

And we’re going to do it in a responsible fashion. We’re going to show the rest of the country that we’re going to do it right.

I also want to thank the students of Biloxi High and Mercy Cross for taking part in our program this morning. To those who lost families and friends in this storm, I am sorry for your loss. May your loved ones rest in peace.

I also want to say a special thank you to the hundreds of emergency personnel who came to our city in our greatest hour of need.
The people of Biloxi and the Mississippi Gulf Coast will be eternally grateful to you.

I also appreciate the hard work and dedication of our city staff, the directors and the rank and file.

Like everyone else, they have performed under the most trying circumstances. Like everyone else, they have not only endured, but they have prevailed.

Today, as we leave this ceremony and as we think about the past, we should also thank God that we are here today, that we have a promising future, and that we live in such a great city, such a great state and such a great country.

And, let me leave you with one final thought. You look at Trent Lott, Thad Cochran and Haley Barbour and you consider all of the great leadership they’ve given this state since the storm.

But all three of them will proudly tell you that they learned a great deal from another great American, Ronald Reagan.

And it was Ronald Reagan who said something that I agree with: “our best days lie ahead.”

God bless all of you, God bless Biloxi, and God bless the United States of America.