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Prayers and Tributes Along the Beach

A dispatch from Noah Adams, blogging from the Gulf Coast:

If you're on the beach in Mississippi at sunrise you can watch the tops of the clouds turn pink and then rose. Waveland and Bay St. Louis are neighbor communities linked by a white sand beach. No high-rise condos (yet). It's one of the few really quiet oceanfronts along the Gulf.

It was a year ago this morning that Katrina made her final landfall, traveling north on a straight line from Buras, La., where we left off last night. The hurricane came ashore on the Louisiana-Mississippi line a few miles from here, pushing a storm surge that was 25 feet high with angry waves on top. Fifty-six people died here in Hancock County. It was 9:45 a.m. when the storm hit and I've always been told "we were grateful for daylight because if it was dark, people couldn't have seen where to swim to or what was coming at them and lots more would have been killed."

NPR's Melissa Block and her colleagues Andrea Hsu and Ivan Burketh made it here that week by Thursday. You can listen to her story from a year ago, and today on All Things Considered you'll hear her update, from a visit last week.

On Waveland Beach this morning, people have gathered on bleachers and folding chairs for an ecumenical memorial service. The view is to the southeast out over the Mississippi Sound and the bright sun now sparkles across the water, highlighting the still-shattered piers. The people are dressed up as if for church — the scent of cologne mixes with salt in the wind. There are lots of hugs; people seem ready to laugh and to cry. Volunteers are in the audience. One woman wears a blue T-shirt: Katrina Relief Mission Pittsburg PA. And among the prayers and tributes, a Catholic priest says, "Father, we thank you for the angels you have sent us."