Along the main road into town, homemade signs with messages to BP officials--and some even addressed to President Barack Obama--typically begged leaders to save beaches and livelihoods. Rows of rentals along the coast were vacant on what is typically the start of the tourist season. The exceptions were the units filling up with military personnel stationed here to assist in the cleanup effort.
All beach entrances were closed to residents at the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend. A small sand berm was put in place, with larger protective oil booms fixed and anchored on top. Anything stretching beyond the berms to the water was considered the “hot zone” by workers and U.S. Coast Guard officials, who kept back curious pedestrians eager to see the oil for themselves.
One family from New Orleans had made the drive in after the city held protests over the weekend. They were quickly moved back away from the tar ball covered shoreline. Another group of women drove in from Pensacola, Fla., because they "had to see for themselves,” they said. They, too, crossed over the berm and filled a Styrofoam cup with tar balls and oil covered debris--souvenirs.
In the late afternoon on Sunday, an official letter from the mayor's office partially lifted the beach ban; “Beach Closed” signs were covered; residents and visitors were allowed to walk along a portion of the shore. Throughout the day small groups determined to enjoy their stretch of sun and sand in the Gulf set up camp and celebrated the Memorial Day weekend as military members and spill workers worked nearby.