PASCAGOULA, Miss. – A funeral home provided the caskets, the city supplied the burial plots, a Baptist minister volunteered to recite the prayers, and sheriff’s deputies served as pallbearers.
But no one at Thursday’s graveside service knew the names of the two Hurricane Katrina victims who were laid to rest side-by-side in a municipal cemetery.
They were the first of the more than 100 still-unidentified Katrina victims, most from New Orleans, to be buried, more than five months after the monstrous storm.
The Rev. Rex Yancey has spoken at hundreds of funerals in 40 years of ministry, but he struggled to find the right words for the occasion. He wrote a poem and read it aloud at the end of the brief memorial service.
“Some questions disturb me as I stand here today,” Yancey said. “They haunt my mind. They won’t go away. Who are you? Can you whisper a clue? Are there friends and relatives looking for you?”
Nobody came forward to claim the bodies of the man and woman, who were found about a week after the Aug. 29 hurricane. After fingerprints, dental records and DNA tests failed to yield any results, Coroner Vicki Broadus decided to let them rest in peace.
Several dozen people gathered at the cemetery to pay their respects. Signs of the hurricane’s fury were not far away – gutted homes, twisted oaks and storm-tossed debris.
Lucille Nash, 70, brought a red rose to the service. Her 46-year-old daughter died in the hurricane, but Nash did not learn of her death until November.
“It could have very easily been her here,” she said.
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