Under blue skies, in a cemetery on the edge of Pascagoula, they were carried by strangers. They were also buried by strangers — two victims whose lives and identities were taken from them by a hurricane named Katrina.
For five months authorities struggled to find the names and families of the two unknowns.
“We feel like we have done all we could do for them,” says Jackson County Coroner Vicki Broadus.
Though it may be the first funeral of its kind since the storm, it is not likely to be the last. Of the more than 1,300 bodies recovered since the hurricane, 115 are unidentified — most in New Orleans. In Mississippi, four people remain unnamed, including these two in Jackson County.
As they have in so many cases in the storm zone, officials used DNA, dental records and fingerprints. In this case, those failed, so they turned to newspapers, radio and television hoping someone would come forward to say, “I know them.”
No one did.
All we do know is she was in her 50s, he was in his 60s. Both were African-American. They were found in different locations — he in a marshy area, she between two cement slabs where houses once stood.
Yet their anonymous deaths brought people together.
“We don't know them, but they are part of us,” says Mary Beasley, a Mississippi resident who felt she had to come to the funeral. “It was necessary. It was absolutely necessary.”
A funeral home donated the caskets, the city donated the land and florist Sandy Hillman gave flowers.
“Somebody has to say, ‘I love you, I remember you,’” Hillman explains.
The local newspaper said they died apparently without family or friends.
Perhaps, after death, they have found both.