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Visiting the Biloxi Casino

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It’s been a while since I’ve visited the Biloxi, MS area. The gaming industry was really on the up-swing and then it all came to a crashing halt on August 29th, 2005 when hurricane Katrina hit the shore. The devastation was far worse than anything you might have seen on TV. While the nation focused on New Orleans and reporters asked the question “Who is going to help all of these poor people who were already living off of government assistance?”, the state of Mississippi went virtually unnoticed even though they took it the hardest. My respect for the good people of Mississippi has gone through the roof as I kept track of the intense clean up and rebuilding that took place from ’05 through ’07. This they did all in spite of having to take a back seat to Louisiana in terms of government assistance due to politics, and the criminal stone-walling from the insurance companies who gladly took insurance premiums from individuals and businesses then had the audacity to question claims because they couldn’t determine if damages were due to winds!

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I had to drive through the area in ’06 and decided to veer off of I-10 down to highway 90 along the coast to see what I could see. If the torn up billboards, road signs, and general debris along the shoulder of the Interstate was any indication, I could only imagine what I would find along the coast. All that I can say is that there are certain images that can not be re-created on television. You can’t see Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon on television and come away with the same experience as seeing it in person. This was the same thing. I managed to work my way through some of the back streets that were passable (mind you that we are talking about 4-months after the hurricane). The sounds of chain saws was humming from all directions and the smell of freshly cut wood was noticed throughout the neighborhoods as people were out working to clear out the remains of 500-year old live oak trees that were uprooted. Blue tarp was covering the roofs of most of the houses that were still standing. The thing that was most impressive was that everyone was out working to fix things up. Nobody was sitting on the curb drinking a beer wondering when the government was going to show up and fix everything for them. Even though I’m not from Mississippi, I had a sense of pride when I saw this along with a renewed hope for America that ‘the dream’ based on rugged individualism is still alive. As we all experienced with 9/11, sometimes it takes the worst to bring out our best.

I finally worked my way down to Highway 90 in Ocean Springs. That’s when I saw that an entire section of the bridge that takes Highway 90 over Biloxi Bay to the casino strip was gone…and so were the casinos. I couldn’t go any further so I had to turn around and head back to the Interstate. I was still curious, so I decided to drive up a little further then cut back over to Highway 90 via I-110. Driving down I-110, I could see that Imperial Palace was still standing strong because it sits on Back Bay and was shielded from a lot of the force, but I’ve heard that they sustained a lot of water damage on the casino floor. When I got down to Highway 90, there was a barricade manned by either the National Guard or regular army that limited access to authorized clean-up personnel only. What I could see from my vantage point before I had to turn around was that Beau Rivage was still standing, even though most of the hotel room windows were blown out. The presence of the young men in full cammo and rifles with the backdrop of the hurricane damaged strip gave the whole thing an eerie 3rd world feeling. That’s all I could deal with. I needed to get back on the road.

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