Jerry Akins had always wanted to live on the water. A native of Louisiana, his job made possible a move to the Mississippi Coast and gave him the opportunity to buy a home in his dream location.
   In 1970, Akins bought a three-bedroom, '60s-style ranch home with a beautiful view of the Mississippi Sound at 2401 Swetman Beach Drive in Gautier. On Aug. 29, 2005, the water he enjoyed so much rose up and washed almost everything away.
   Akins estimates his home took at least 22 feet of storm surge from Hurricane Katrina. The water flooded in from the Gulf and washed almost everything on the main floor of the house northward, rendering the contents of his home unrecoverable.
   Amazingly, items in the attic and high in some closets were able to be saved. "The Christmas lights and decorations in the attic were untouched," he said. "We were able to use them this past Christmas."
   Any thoughts he and his wife, Elaine, had about not rebuilding were short-lived.
   "Once you live on the water for 30 years, you're not comfortable anywhere else," he said.
   Apparently, good workers have not been hard to find. Some very well-connected people arrived on the scene of the Akins' reconstruction March 8 - President Bush, along with first lady Laura Bush, stopped by to lend a quick hand with their rebuilding.
   "The president hung a light fixture in the kitchen with some help from Gov. Barbour," Akins said.
   The Akinses are using this opportunity to rebuild as a chance to make a few changes to their home. Along with raising it 4 feet above its previous elevation, they are adding a study to the layout. In fact, Elaine already has a name for the new addition: "The Presidential Suite."
- JOHN PARTAIN