NEW ORLEANS - The cold, humid wind couldn't dampen the smiles, and a few happy tears at the groundbreaking of the six year project to rebuild the New Canal Lighthouse at West End.
"The faith of this community, that is so magnificent that people," said former Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation Executive Director Carlton Dufrechou. "The Lighthouse to me more than anything else is a symbol of the resilience of Metro New Orleans coming back after the most horrendous storm."
Minutes later a truck unloaded the pilings for the Lighthouse as organizers said you'll see construction starting within days.
"I used to swim from here out to the point when I was a little tomboy," said Jackie Elliot. "So to see this today? It was wonderful, wonderful."
The red and white Lighthouse that dates to 1839 stood as a beacon for sailors and landlubbers out to enjoy a day at the Lake until the Hurricane Katrina storm surge wrecked it in 2005, but the next year, everything salvageable was saved.
The rebuilt Lighthouse will look the same, but will be raised nineteen feet, and built to better withstand future hurricanes. Pieces of the original will give it that old-time feel.
"We may be able to use some of the shutters," said Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation Executive Director Dr. John Lopez. "There's a lot of hardwood planks that we may be able to reconstruct or replicate some of the feel of the Lighthouse structure."
Rebuilding the Lighthouse is a more than one million dollar project made possible by contributions from people throughout the area, many of whom watched previous Eyewitness News Action Reports.
But now that the construction is started, they still need help, because now they've got to furnish it, and put the museum inside.
"This community I have to thank," smiled Anne Rheams of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation.
"They have come through and contributed $700,000 and more so that we can actually build this Lighthouse. But we still need some cash. We need $250,000 to make it into the education center."
Construction should take six months, with the opening by the end of the year.
To become part of the rebuilding project by donating, call the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation at 836-2215, or visit their website at www.saveourlake.org. You can still buy a personalized Lighthouse brick for $200 that will be installed at the site.