Digest>Archives> September 2009

New Postage Stamps Honor Defiant Lighthouses That Withstood Hurricanes

By Sandra Shanklin


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Speakers for the First Day Ceremony of the new ...
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At the end of July the United States Postal Service issued the fifth in their series of lighthouse postage stamps. The First Day Ceremony was held at Biloxi Beach at the foot of the historic Biloxi Lighthouse which has become a symbol of the area's tenacity after nearly being wiped out by hurricanes.

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Unveiling the new Gulf Coast Lighthouse postage ...

As a flag corps from nearby Keesler Air Force Base brought in the U.S. Flag and a singing group also from Keesler sang the National Anthem, the ceremony began.

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Hundreds of people gathered in the heat of a Mississippi morning to hear U.S. Postal Southeastern Vice President Terry Wilson speak and introduced Mrs. Katherine Tobin of the Board of Governors of the Postal Service who gave the keynote speech. Mrs. Tobin mentioned how important the lighthouses being honored were, and how they had withstood hurricanes and storms, along with other lighthouses of the Gulf Coast, many of them long gone.

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Attendees to the First Day of issue ceremony for ...
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Then Biloxi Mayor, A.J. Holloway said: “Our lighthouse was halfway submerged during Katrina, yet it stills stands tall today as testament to the resilience of our community. She is our enduring landmark — our signature landmark. We are very proud that the Postal Service chose the Biloxi Lighthouse for this series.”

Another speaker was Capt. Hal Pierce of the Alabama Lighthouse Association who was representing Alabama and the Sand Island Lighthouse, which he and his organization have been working to save, along with Middle Bay Light. He stressed the importance of people getting involved to save the Gulf Coast lighthouses and other lighthouses of the U.S. Local historian Murella Powell also spoke.

During the ceremony a large poster was unveiled showing all five of the beautiful commemorative stamps, painted by artist Howard Koslow, who has painted all the previous lighthouse series as well. The Postal Service said the paintings were all done from the photos of one photographer, Frank Dedlar of St. Louis, Michigan. The photos were all taken in the year following 2005’s devastating hurricanes.

After the ceremony hundreds of people sweltered in line on the hot blacktop of the parking lot patiently waiting to buy First Day Cancellations and other Postal lighthouse memorabilia. The ceremony was over by noon, but it was nearly 4 p.m. before the crowd all got their purchases.

The whole day, ceremony and all, was dominated by the Biloxi Lighthouse, standing proud and tall, still showing the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, but with a new bright U.S. Flag hanging from the railing of the gallery.

There has been a flag flying from that gallery ever since a day or so after Katrina. Local officials put it there to show that like the lighthouse was still standing after a 26 foot tidal swell rolled over it, damaging it; the city of Biloxi also was devastated but is still standing. The lighthouse has become a symbol of hope to the people of Biloxi and nearby areas as well. The lighthouse overcame and so will they. The flag is changed every few months as it gets so tattered in the winds off the Gulf of Mexico.

Restoration is about to start on the Biloxi Lighthouse and when it is finished, the flag will no longer be flown from the gallery railing. For now, the flag and the lighthouse are a symbol of pride for the people of the Gulf Coast.

The city of Biloxi is still damaged. Many neighborhoods remain where there is still wreckage, still foundation of houses, with just a few repaired houses here and there. One local man, involved in restoration, said that it might be 30 years before the marks and damages of Katrina are gone.

The five lighthouses honored on the stamps are Biloxi, MS, which stood through Hurricane Katrina as well as Hurricane Camille some years back that also devastated that area; Matagorda Island, Texas; Sabine Pass, Louisiana; Sand Island, Alabama; and Fort Jefferson, Florida. Biloxi Light is the only one in the series that people can easily get close to.

All of these lighthouses have stood through ravaging hurricanes and storms, and hopefully, will stand for many years yet with the help of friends of lighthouses.

This story appeared in the September 2009 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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