Battered Mississippi remembers its Katrina dead and its road to recovery

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) - Two unidentified victims of Hurricane Katrina were laid to rest Tuesday as Mississippi's Gulf Coast marks the storm's one-year anniversary with a day of both mourning and celebration.

All along the scarred Mississippi coast, workers and families gathered for remembrances - a sunrise service in Waveland, a casino reopening in Biloxi, film presentations recounting of Katrina's fury and the year-long fight to survive.

Katrina killed 231 people in Mississippi and wiped away whole communities. A year later, most of the debris is gone and humid air is filled with sounds of recovery.

On the town green in Biloxi about 500 yards from the shore, several hundred people gathered among live oak trees for a commemoration service.

US Senator Trent Lott commended state and local officials for their part in the recovery efforts.

In a Gulfport park overlooking the Mississippi Sound, 500 gathered for an early morning memorial service to honor the 14 people who died in the city during the storm.

Firefighters police and paramedics carried red roses to the front of the stage and placed them in a vase to mark each victim.

Gulfport Mayor Brent Warr read out the name of each victim. At each name, an emergency worker saluted and a bell was struck.

At a a city-owned cemetery in Gulfport, the two anonymous storm victims were buried side-by-side in matching silver caskets. A priest, a rabbi and a minister will join in leading the graveside service since authorities don't know the men's religious faiths.

Although their identities are a mystery, the men won't be buried without names.

Gary Hargrove, the coroner for the coast's most populous county, says their graves soon will have markers that, along with their physical descriptions, identify them as "Will" and "Strength."

Also marking the anniversary were a number of the thousands of volunteers who begin arriving in waves arrived soon after Katrina's departure. Volunteers continue to help with rebuilding homes and businesses today.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)