Hurricane Katrina

Standing guard

PASS CHRISTIAN - The 8,700-pound, 6-foot-tall, hand-carved white granite Italian statue of St. Michael, a fixture on Beach Boulevard in Pass Christian near Hiern Avenue for three years, is back right where he was before Hurricane Katrina's surge moved him and broke off his left forearm.

St. Michael's arm was reattached recently, minus a missing finger, and the patron saint of mariners in distress and police officers - among other things - was erected Friday by Southern Monument Co. of Columbia to stand guard over the harbor once again.

"He literally floated off," Betsi Burgess said, adding that the truly amazing thing was that it had been attached by a thick pin to the concrete base. "I know he lost his finger but he needs to come home," she said.

St. Michael was originally commissioned by John and Betsi Burgess as a memorial to Betsi's parents, but it became a much beloved and photographed fixture of the harbor area.

"Mom thought it would be nice," Betsi said Friday in front of the statue. "He was surrounded by beautiful grasses and beautiful trees."

John Burgess, who owned a small artists shop on Beach Boulevard with Betsi, told the Sun Herald previously that they decided to bring the statue back to life as a gift to a town still struggling in the storm's aftermath.

Betsi said one Pass police officer told her it was one of the last things he saw before Katrina's surge roared ashore. The officer stopped, said a little prayer, went back to the police station and barely escaped with the rest of the police force when the station was torn apart by wind and water, Betsi said.

Katrina was not kind to St. Michael either, Betsi said, leaving him in a pile of sewage for days.

Betsi said she and her husband live in Georgia now, but they would like to reopen their store in the Pass as soon as space is available.

"I don't know the answer, but we sure would like to come home to the Pass in some way," Burgess said.

St. Michael sits right across from the vacant lot that was once the Burgess' store, waiting patiently for their return.