Coast pauses to remember the other deadly hurricane

Published 5:13 pm Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Some ceremonies were held along the Mississippi Gulf Coast to remember those killed by Hurricane Camille, one of the most destructive storms to ever hit the region.

It was 39 years ago this past Sunday that the violent system struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Officials with the Harrison County Emergency Management Agency held a ceremony at Pine Ridge Gardens Cemetery in Gulfport for Faith, Hope and Charity — the names given to the three women who were never identified.

Each year since they were buried in late summer 1969, the staff members of the county’s EMA, formerly the Civil Defense, have held a memorial service for the three women.

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In Biloxi, a few dozen locals gathered at the Hurricane Camille Memorial on the beachfront grounds of Episcopal Church of the Redeemer to remember Camille and the lives that the storm took.

“This is not a Biloxi service, it’s a coast wide service,” said Harold Roberts, the church’s director.

Camille flattened the church on Aug. 17, 1969, and 36 years later the church was leveled again by the most devastating storm in U.S. history. The coast will reflect on that storm, Hurricane Katrina, next week.

“We pray that our children and our children’s children will see both Camille and Katrina as examples of the resolve and resilience of this community,” Mayor A.J. Holloway told the crowd.

During the service at the Camille Memorial, church members read the 172 names of those who died or have never been found. For years after Camille, there were conflicting reports as to how many people were actually killed.

Church member Julia Guice began researching Camille statistics in the 1990s and led an area fundraising effort to build the memorial. Her research revealed the 172 names now carved in the memorial.

Her husband, the late Wade Guice, was Harrison County’s Civil Defense director and is credited with saving hundreds by convincing them to evacuate just before it was too late.

Camille became a hurricane on Aug. 15, 1969, south of Cuba and swelled into a monster that night as it moved over the steamy Gulf waters.

An Air Force reconnaissance plane reported winds of more than 200 mph. According to news coverage of the time, Wade Guice described the planes report as “the difference between survival and 10,000 tombstones,” words strong enough to prompt a few more residents to evacuate.