Hurricane Katrina

MENGE AVENUE, PASS CHRISTIAN: Back to business, life

PASS CHRISTIAN - The residents of Menge Avenue in Pass Christian now live on what has become the major artery in and out of their storm-ravaged town.

This is good for business owners, like optometrist Dr. James Benigno, who reopened his eye-care business in a trailer on a friend's lot near his childhood home on Evangelin Drive.

Benigno said business boomed after he opened the trailer in October because he was even more accessible in his new spot than in his old, rented space on Second Street near the Winn-Dixie, and customer traffic has dropped off only somewhat in the last few months.

For others, like homeowner Wilma Dubuisson, the constant traffic can be somewhat saddening because her lost memories are still on open display in the form of the still-gutted home in which she raised her now-grown children.

While the piles of debris have largely been cleared from the roadside and only a handful of teetering houses remain, it is obvious that most residents still have a ways to go in recovering from the mass of surge water that ruined so much for so many.

There are signs of hope though.

FEMA trailers still sit in most yards, but Randy's Rangers - a large, independent relief group - have vacated their lot at the corner of Second Street, perhaps as a sign of better times.

There are other positive signs too.

"My friends are coming back," said Logan Dubuisson, Wilma Dubuisson's 9-year-old grandson, who lives just behind her house. He added that most of the neighborhood kids had evacuated.

Hearing that, Wilma Dubuisson smiled while standing in her shell of a home, despite just reflecting on all the photo albums that were lost to rising water.

She remembered when Logan and his brother, Connor, 7, got to move back into their old bedroom just a few weeks earlier and smiled again.

"They wouldn't leave their room they were so excited," Dubuisson said.

The series

The Sun Herald this month continues its 30 Communities in 30 Days series, which looks at how area neighborhoods are recovering from Hurricane Katrina. We will update these stories every six months.

What Katrina did

Nearly every home within three miles of the Gulf on Menge Avenue was flooded in some way, be it with bayou water or seawater. Very few homes were knocked down, even near the beach, but several houses were lifted off their foundations and deposited in neighboring yards.