Friday, March 31, 2006
Online NewsHour: Students Help Rebuild Houses After Hurricane Katrina -- March 29, 2006
'It's not hard to sleep in a car if you want to,' he said.
It's not that May wants to sleep in his automobile. He doesn't have much choice.
'See I'm not too proud to sleep in there,' he said.
The hurricane damaged May's north Gulfport home. Yet, FEMA hasn't delivered a trailer to his property. Since his wife is now in a nursing home, May sleeps where he feels most comfortable.
'Sometimes in here,' he said, tapping on his car. 'Sometimes I stay with my grandson. But if his house is crowded, I won't stay there."
WLOX-TV - The News for South Mississippi: Giant Tree Stump In Downtown Bay St. Louis To Become Part Of A Katrina Memorial
WLOX-TV - The News for South Mississippi: Giant Tree Stump In Downtown Bay St. Louis To Become Part Of A Katrina Memorial: "The hurricane took out many landmarks in Bay St. Louis, but at least one will live on as part of a Katrina Memorial.
Mayor Eddie Favre has made it clear he wants to save a giant, old live oak tree stump. A sign posted on the top warns cleanup crews not to remove the stump, by order of the Mayor."
Thursday, March 30, 2006
If you ever get in a bad mood or are feeling sorry for yourself, watch it. She has to be the most positive person I have ever seen. AMAZING!
"This is the first in a series of dispatches from Judy Wang (left), a UC Berkeley third-year double major in molecular and cell biology and psychology. She’s on spring break in Mississippi, helping with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as part of the campus's Alternative Breaks program, which was created by students five years ago at the Cal Corps Public Service Center. She wrote this dispatch on Sunday, March 26, the second day of her trip to Biloxi"
"It is painfully obvious that it will take years and years for Biloxi, and the rest of the Gulf Coast, to redevelop and rebuild. People are slowly beginning to come back to Biloxi, but for the most part, ... where Katrina hit the hardest, it is reminiscent of a ghost town."
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
The Online NewsHour: Rebuilding the Gulf Coast | PBS:
"An organization called Hands on Network has brought students from a $35,000-tuition prep school in New Jersey to Biloxi, Miss. to help gut homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.While the focus is on Lawrenceville, UVA and SBU were also mentioned!
The student volunteers say the experience has changed the way they look at their own lives and the things they take for granted."
Mmm, I guess it's true, I really do have a face for radio. Not sure why the video is not online. (I am the one yelling "who is going to 632 Division?" and also making the speech near the end.)
"Debris removal: Day 200 and counting – and hauling
The city’s debris removal efforts reached a milestone today, hitting Day 200.
To date, debris removal teams have hauled more than 2.3 million cubic yards of debris, enough to cover a football field and stand 108 stories high.
Jonathan Kiser, the city’s de facto debris czar helping oversee compliance and reimbursement, offers the breakdown on a debris hauling effort that has reached a $36 million price tag at this point.
Burnable debris: 434,511 cubic yards
Non-burnable: 1,837,088 cubic yards
Appliances: 32,884 cubic yards.
Electronics: 432 cubic yards"
Sunday, March 26, 2006
The Sun Herald 03/26/2006 KATRINA DONATIONS:
"Pediatric patients in Bay St. Louis recently received a helping hand from commodity brokers in New York.Fred Mascia, president of the New York Board of Trade's philanthropic organization, 'Futures & Options for Kids,' traveled to Bay St. Louis on March 10 to deliver a check for $75,000 to the Hancock Medical Center Foundation. The money will be used to buy new equipment for the
pediatric unit, Chief Nursing Officer Angie Gambino said. Funds are targeted to replace pediatric beds, IV pumps, scales, glucose monitors, glider rocking chairs and wheelchairs."
Tight squeeze: Life inside FEMA trailer:
"The new normal is the norm for many others these days. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency has provided travel trailers or mobile homes to more than
36,000 families in Mississippi since Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29.
Most families have their trailers set up on the remnants of their
hurricane-battered property - just like the McKays.
The McKays are living in two FEMA trailers in front of the skeletal remains of their 3,000-square-foot,
ranch-style home. Gus, a city official in nearby Bay St. Louis, shares one with
his wife and their two daughters. Their 23-year-old son, Gus III, a policeman,
shares the other with his 79-year-old grandmother.
Sure, it's crowded. But that's only a fraction of their problems."
Saturday, March 25, 2006
"BILOXI - A firm that worked with the Governor's Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal has pulled out the planning process for the rebuilding of Biloxi.
Here's why: They said city leaders are letting developers drive the rebuilding process and also are allowing the destruction of the community's traditions"
and later in the same article:
""The messy cocktail of high-rise casinos and condos, multi-level parking garages, few remaining cottages and strip centers will be an even worse environment, and unpleasant place to live," the letter said. "The memory of East Biloxi will be scarred forever.""
"written on blue hotel stationery by Jefferson Davis to then-U.S. President James K. Polk, had been among the rare manuscripts on display at Beauvoir, Davis' home, now a museum and library, in Biloxi, Miss.
Like so much of the Gulf Coast, the 52-acre estate was no match for Katrina's fierce winds and tidal surge. The storm tore part of the mansion's roof, leveled buildings, obliterated the library pavilion and washed the letter and a dozen other artifacts on display in the library's first floor more than 700 feet away.
Frost, a preservationist with the University of Iowa Library, volunteered his energy and expertise in the cleanup, and in doing so earned first crack at reclaiming Davis' damaged letter."
Online NewsHour: Pass Christian, Miss. Rebuilds After Katrina -- March 20, 2006:
"Some business activity has been restored. One Po' Boy sandwich shop is always busy. A couple of banks are open, and there's a tiny grocery store. But Rizzardi says the tax base has been decimated.
LOU RIZZARDI: Prior to the storm, we had a budget of about $6 million, which translates into about $500,000 a month if you average it out. Currently, we're taking in about perhaps $40,000 a month"
"Just as I had been told, you have to come in person to see to really understand the ravage Katrina visited upon the area, with its unique culture and landscape.
Scenes and places that I fondly knew from many years of coming here - Bay St. Louis and Waveland - were sadly no longer recognizable to me.
What was readily apparent to me on my visit last week was that an incredible force had angrily bombed this wonderful part of the world virtually back to its primeval state."
Friday, March 24, 2006
Check out this one by Pauline (AKA Tippy Kayak). READ UP. There are quite a few--and I purposely missed one or two ;)
Here is day -2, day 1, day 2, day 3, day 4, day 4 Part B day 5-visiting other sites, day 6-bad day (I agree it was a bad day!), day 7, day 8 home
Also she has posted a few pictures:
TippyKayak: "For those who have read my blog recap of my trip to St. Bernards Parish, thank you. I now have pictures along with my commentary on my website at www.pwhoffmann.com - click on BonaResponds."
"The accusations include improper diversion of relief supplies, failure to follow required Red Cross procedures in tracking and distributing supplies, and use of felons as volunteers in the disaster area in violation of Red Cross rules.After giving to the Red Cross after the Tsunami and Katrina, and then seeing first hand how high their expenses are then and now this, well I guess I better just shut up....
There are no known official estimates of the cash or the value of supplies that might have been misappropriated, but volunteers who have come forward with accusations said the amount was in the millions of dollars. The Red Cross received roughly 60 percent of the $3.6 billion that Americans donated for hurricane relief. Mr. McGuire said the investigation started 'a number of weeks ago' and was continuing.
'We're in the middle of this, and we're looking at a range of possible problems,' he said, 'from issues between a few people that are really nothing other than bad will, to failure to follow good management principles and Red Cross procedures that have caused a lot of waste, to criminal activity.'"
The Sun Herald | 03/14/2006 | Spring break? Amazing!:
"MTV News will bring worldwide viewers to Biloxi ...with daily reports about the network's alternative spring break, which is under way right now.
Its focus is more than 60 college students on MTV's 'The Amazing Break' as they gut and clean mold-infested structures in East Biloxi to help homeowners be able to eventually move back in.
A full documentary about the effort premieres Saturday, March 25, on MTV. The MTV group is among thousands of spring breakers from throughout the nation who are devoting their time off to Katrina recovery efforts.
About 4,000 students applied for 'The Amazing Break,' which is MTV's first venture into an alternative spring break, and 100 were chosen. About 36 went to Foley, Ala., to work on houses still damaged from Hurricane Ivan in 2004."
Thursday, March 23, 2006
HNP Today | Publications | Holy Name Province:
"As images of their efforts rotated across a large screen in the university chapel, participants in the massive BonaResponds service trip greeted one another with hugs, smiles and high-fives in the afternoon of March 13."One aspect that I had not seen reported elsewhere:
"Also during the service, at the request of the St. Bonaventure University friary community, the Province recognized 20 members of BonaResponds by awarding them the Francis Medal in honor of their leadership.
Established by the Province in 1998, the Francis Medal is awarded to 'recognize and express its deep appreciation to women and men who have advanced the values and ideals of St. Francis and/or generously assisted the friars in living and proclaiming the Gospel after the example of St. Francis of Assisi.'"
"Forensic CEO Robert Kochan said his firm inspected between 160 and 175 storm-damaged homes for State Farm. In five or six of those cases, including the Mullins', engineers amended rough drafts of reports after developing new information about Katrina and how it damaged homes, he said.
'I will say categorically that State Farm never asked us to change our reports,' Kochan said. 'They did ask us to relook at and reconsider different factors that hadn't been presented to us initially.'"
"My wife and I were in Biloxi the same week as some of your students skipped 'Spring Break' to perform a Service Break. I was working on a home up the street beside the house they were working on. They did a super job and it was a very strenuous one that a lot of older persons would not have been able to perform as well as they did. Yes, there were a lot of emotions involved.
I bought a gallon of drink and a box of cookies for them and just left it w/o saying much. They kept thanking me for it but I could only thank them for what they were giving of themselves.
After returning home yesterday I thought it would be appropriate that I donate some money in their (your students) honor. I would need their group name or some designation so they would receive some notice or at least they or their group/s, be made aware an honor was bestowed. The work we were doing was thru the Back Bay Mission a United Church of Christ unit in Biloxi who performs different community assistance programs, i.e. for the homeless, energy assistance, counseling, helping elderly, etc., year round. The money would be donated to Back Bay Mission."
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
"What would you do if you found more than $30,000? Two girls from Armstrong Atlantic State University did just that and are making national news.
Trista Wright and Haley Barton were on their spring break cleanup trip in New Orleans when they found more the money in the debris and walls of one woman's home.
The girls were cleaning out a home which had been destroyed by water. Wright was in a small closet and moved what seemed to be an air conditioner vent from the wall when money just started pouring out."
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
3 more bodies found in block of Lower Ninth Ward:
"Fire Department recovery workers, tipped off by student volunteers who were clearing Katrina debris, found three bodies on the same block in the Lower 9th Ward, a New Orleans fire chief said Monday."later in the same article:
"The discovery of the bodies in the 2400 block of Tupelo Street, near the St. Bernard Parish line -- two of them within 20 feet of each other in the same debris pile -- brings to seven the number of bodies discovered since the special operations unit of the Fire Department resumed recovery work on March 2, said Fire Chief Steve Glynn, chief of special operations for the New Orleans Fire Department.
He said six have been found in the Lower 9th Ward, and one in Lakeview. Most have been found under the debris of collapsed or shifted houses. Only one has been found in a house that was still standing -- in an attic.
None of the bodies has been identified....'
and later still:
"Sunday about 2:30 p.m., a group of students, who were volunteering their spring break to help clean debris from homes, noticed what looked like human remains in a pile of debris where a house once stood...
After recovery workers uncovered those remains, a dog and handler from a Shreveport fire department indicated the presence of another body about 20 feet away, Glynn said."
"After eliminating all recommendations that would have prohibited any of the city's neighborhoods from participating in its rebuilding process, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on Monday night presented a blueprint for restoring and improving the hurricane-devastated city."From Yahoo's AP version:
"Mayor Ray Nagin presented his plan for resuscitating this hurricane-battered city, saying residents should be allowed to rebuild anywhere — as long as they do so at their own risk."and later:
"The plan comes two months after the mayor's advisory commission, formed after Katrina struck Aug. 29, recommended that some flooded neighborhoods be replaced with parks and that the city take a go-slow attitude in rebuilding low-lying areas. But that suggestion was greeted with jeers and outrage at public meetings."
As the following shows, these books were very much needed!
Public lifelines to knowledge in crisis - The Clarion-Ledger:
"The Mississippi Library Commission estimates public library damages at $24 million for facilities and $15 million for library materials, furniture and equipment, according to the American Library Association.
According to the association, 73 elementary schools and 64 junior high and high school libraries were damaged or destroyed. They lost $32 million worth of books and $6 million worth of other supplies."
Monday, March 20, 2006
A life changing experience — really: Young Seneca Falls woman decides to give up grad school to help full-time
"“As time goes by … it seems that people forgot what happened down there,” Francis said. “It’s surprising how many people don’t know; it’s not on the news anymore."and also :
Read the whole article!
"Ceccarelli, who worked in New Orleans, said she and the volunteers were stunned when they saw the devastation firsthand.
A bus full of chatter turned silent as the helpers made their way into the city, where Ceccarelli witnessed empty plazas, abandoned cars in the middle of roads and garbage everywhere – six months after the disaster, she noted.
“I can say the entire bus was shocked,” said Ceccarelli, who was among 35 Bonaventure volunteers working with Hands On in the inner city of New Orleans."
Sunday, March 19, 2006
"House thinks he's among the luckier residents of St. Bernard Parish. That's because he works at the Domino Sugar refinery that towers over the Mississippi River, east of New Orleans. When the plant was flooded, along with most of the rest of the parish, Domino's executives created a 200-unit trailer park to house its workers and their families. At a time when most of his neighbors have nothing, House has his job, his family nearby, and a place to live."Be sure to watch the video! It is about about 7 and a half minutes.
"The House on Thursday passed a $19 billion aid package that was directed primarily to work in Louisiana that included $4.2 billion in Community Development Block Grants to help uninsured flood victims.
Bush asked for all that money to go to Louisiana. But the House wisely did not designate the money for any one state, leaving all affected storm victims including those in Mississippi eligible.
And 4th District U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, won a major victory when he got a $55 million amendment to rebuild two military exchange stores in Mississippi.
All storm victims deserve equal access to Katrina aid funds. But 'looting Louisiana?' We beg to differ."
It is Bill Driscoll (Jr's) new group. It is going to be a great way to help directly in the Bay St. Louis/Waveland/Pass Christian area.
Full Disclosure: I was just named to the Persevere's Board of Directors, so I might be a tad biased! ;)
"'Three of the diocese churches were leveled to nothing,' said the Rev. Mike Austin, pastor at St. Joseph. 'St. Michael's in Biloxi and Our Lady of the Gulf in Bay St. Louis were both washed out. The only thing left standing was the outside frame, and St. Peter's in Pascagoula is gone. (Our Lady of Victories) was washed out, along with Sacred Heart in Pascagoula."I saw the Lady Of the Gulf last week. Amazing buildng that is literally on the Gulf. What a view! Obviously it recieved damage, but not as much as I might have guessed for the area.
Buffalo News - Bona drive brings cries of 'play ball' to Katrina kids:
"Plant a seed and sometimes you end up with a beanstalk that reaches to the sky."Very cool!
It's going to happen. They'll be playing softball in Bay St. Louis later this spring, baseball in neighboring Waveland. Players have begun to register. It's looking like interest might be at an all-time high."
Friday, March 17, 2006
Life has been quite surreal since Katrina's wrath was unleashed. Those of us who survived are doing are best to rebuild what we can. Help has come from all over the world and for that we are thankful but just to make sure you don't forget that we still need help after Katrina's proverbial "15 minutes" have expired we shall be here to remind you.
Ben Marble, M.D.
Be sure to watch the videos! Wow.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
"The softball league representatives have extended an open invitation for him to attend or possibly ump a game. “We’re definitely going back this summer,” he said.
“I look forward to reciprocating to everyone who came down here and helped us. I can’t wait to show them how much we appreciate it,” Sires added. "
"I could not be more proud of our students. They were up early each morning and had positive attitudes as they cleaned mold;tore down walls; pulled up flooring; cleared debris; cut trees; put on roofs and performed countless other tasks. This was tough physical labor and they did it without complaint. The entire Bonaventure family was represented, students, graduates, faculty, staff, friends of grads, sons of grads; sisters of grads, member of the NAB, the friars, and brothers. Quite simply, it was incredible. This truly was the Franciscan spirit in action.'
— Maureen Keenan LeBoeuf, University trustee"
"ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y., March 14, 2006 — As images of their efforts rotated across a large screen in the University Chapel, participants in the massive BonaResponds service trip greeted one another with hugs, smiles and high-fives Monday afternoon. "
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Buffalo News - Unique spring break says a lot about kids:
"The 2003 basketball scandal might have emotionally drained the campus community for a short time, but it never made folks here waver from their mission: to teach students how they can best serve the world with a perfect blend of intelligence and compassion. (The full-blown mission statement is a tad wordier, but that pretty much sums it up.)
What this remarkable trip revealed to me was a hidden truth about Bona students. They might have cell phones glued to their ears and might not own any pants without holes. But they also have hearts bigger than the Grinch's that Christmas Day, bursting with a passion to help others I didn't believe possible on such a grand scale - more than 200 students on a campus of just over 2,000."
It is obviously paraphrased:
"This is not "good bye". It is "until next time". I am sure I (and many of our other volunteers) will be back. But don't think
you are going to get off that easily, I am still going to take
the opportunity to speak for a few minutes,
First of all, thank you all. Thank you to the Hand-on leadership and to all of the volunteers. You are the best. That you stay focused in such a stressful and changing evnviroment is amazing. Thank you!
I also want to remind everyone from my students to the long-term volunteers, that this is about more than just your time in the Gulf. It is about more than a week. There is something magical about this place.
I have tried. I have had endless conversations with past (and present) volunteers about what the magic is. I am still looking for the right words. While I don't know how to define it, it is something that makes us all better people. I would encourage all of you to appreciate that, to enjoy it, to take it all in. But also to learn from it.
These nightly meetings are among my favorite parts of the day. I love to hear what other groups did and to hear how the time here affected others. On my second trip here, a volunteer said something at a meeting that I remember almost every day, and not coincidentally, something that may explain the "magic".
He said that he was a better person when he was here. He cared for people, he didn't swear, and he was nice to his fellow volunteers. More importantly he challenged us all to be that better person when we go home. I offer you the same challenge.
We did not put this trip together for the week. It was not a vacation trip. It is a learning experience. The time you spend here should be felt long after we leave the region.
Of course the people you have helped will be eternally grateful and to that degree, we can say the trip has been a success, but the real impact shoule also be felt back at home.
No matter where home is, you can take a piece of Handson with you. You can take that magic. Be that person you wish you could be: help others, care for your neighbors, volunteer at the local humane society, help out at the soup kitchen in your town, or just take the time to listen to those in need. If you do that, this trip will really be a success!"
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
"There may be no hurricane recovery for the Chandeleur Islands because 90 percent of the island chain located 30 miles south of Biloxi is underwater, a scientist says.
Chandeleur Islands has been battered by four hurricanes since 2001, including Hurricane Katrina in August. Katrina's eroding force - combined with the past storms - virtually obliterate the sand islands, the U.S. Geological Survey said."
"This is Miami Beach compared to what it was six months ago,” says alderman Chipper McDermott, as he drives around what remains of his town, which had a population of around 6,500 before Katrina..................................
“When all that help and all those volunteers first came, that seems like a hundred years ago to me.”
“Camille blew harder,” thinks McDermott, “but it didn’t bring as much water with it.”
Ultimately, water was the fatal blow that doomed so many homes in the area.....
In the Timber Ridge section of Pass Christian, out of 400 homes, not even one was in livable condition after Katrina. Even houses that weren’t shredded or lifted off their foundations were too saturated with water to be considered intact."
"Everyone, no matter who they are, what they've done, or are doing, has the potential for greatness. All they need is a bit of inspiration, be it in the form of music, poetry, prose, imagery, or a real life example.He also provided a look at what is happening at Handson on a regular basis and some unreal pictures of the destruction.
Eventually there will be music lyrics, biographies, and other resources here, as well as links to sites that inspire me. For now, you can browse my journals from the relief work I did in Thailand and Mississippi. Its sorted by month on the left."
You definitely want to bookmark this one!
Hands on - Biloxi, MS: "Two days ago, Lawrenceville prep school from New Jersey arrived with 50 eager and willing high schoolers. Prior to their arrival, we were turning over one house every couple of days in the mold process due to lack of numbers and interest. Now, we are turning over four houses a day! Another group from St. Bonaventure College from New York arrived today, and we will be turning over five houses a day. The huge burden of taking on an enormous task with only a little help has been lifted, and by the end of the month, we will have approximately 150 homes demolded and ready to be rebuilt!"
Monday, March 13, 2006
Hands On Network - Get Hands On in the Gulf Region!: "Volunteers are still desperately needed. Hands On Network is continuing and supporting the outstanding work of Hands On USA in the Gulf Region. The volunteer center at Pass Road in Biloxi will remain open for changemakers in the foreseeable future.
Please join us! To schedule a volunteer trip to Biloxi, please send an email to email@example.com or call 228-257-6094."
"Other than the loss of everything? I know it's still very emotional for the teachers, because we're still fighting FEMA, we're still fighting the insurance,' said Davis. 'There's not a day that goes by that a buddy teacher's not watching your class and you're on the phone with somebody trying to get an adjustor or a contractor or somebody.'On Thursday and Friday the production crew was at Handson in Biloxi. The producer said he would email when it is going to air. Stay tuned.)
Kim Stasny, superintendent of the Bay-Waveland School District, welcomed the scrutiny.
'I think it's going to help us get the message out that we haven't recovered. And that we are still in the process, and we still need help,' she said."
"Helloooooo and welcome back to rainy, dreary St. Bonaventure. Haha.
I've already set a date to get back to Biloxi-- the Saturday after the last day of exams. I've also recruited a good crew from home to come with me. I was wondering if you had the number to Hands On, because I'm assuming I'll probably have to let them know when I'm coming and how many I'm bringing.
That aside, I guess I just want to thank you for making this opportunity available, because it was truly life-changing. I mean, I knew before we left that there would be no way I could regret the experience. But I also didn't have any way of expecting the many ways one week down there could affect me to the point that as we were loading the bus, I was thinking, "Maybe I could just hide in my tent. They'd never know, they'd never miss me. Who needs a college degree anyways?"
My life is in such a different persepective right now it's almost a little unnerving."
10. Getting re-acquainted with technical operation of mops, mopwringers, and buckets
9. A week of sleeping accommodations on floor or ground in close proximity to people you barely know
8. Waking up at 5:00 AM to the "Muppets" theme song playing on a nearby cellular telephone alarm
7. A week of cafeteria "cuisine" that includes a week of peanut butter and jelly sandwich lunches
6. After a day of physical work, looking forward to being number 25 on the shower line list
5. Time to stop and perform a "reality check" on our relatively easy lives in suburbia
4. Opportunity to redefine the words "evangelization" and "outreach" in practical, visible ways
3. A week devoted exclusively to attending to the needs of others truly deserving and needing of our time and talent
2. Ability to attain some level of "holiness" without detaching yourself from the real world
1. A chance to quietly leave a small piece of the world a little happier than it was before you arrived
Sunday, March 12, 2006
1. Mrs. Keenan (Maureen Keenan-LeBoeuf's mom) died today. Maureen worked with us in Biloxi and went way beyond the call of duty!
2. Jerre (who Maureen worked tirelessly for) also died today. Jerre was the person who was living in a van. Surely, he will not officially count as a Katrina Death, but just as surely, Katrina played a major role in his death.
Dr. Bob has visited with him on Saturday AM and reported that he (Jerre) was alert and talking about how it comforted him so that these "angels" were caring for him.
Thanks "guys" for making his last days on earth more comfortable.
Dr. Bob sent this update:
"Jerre passed away at the VA hospital about 4 pm yesterday. In medical speak he had end-stage respiratory disease and a bad heart; the final event was probably a massive pulmonary embolus. He never woke up after that first arrest on Saturday evening.
In the speak of compassionate and concerned friends and volunteers, Jerre died of a 'broken heart'. Diseased, despondant, and discouraged, his last 3 days of life were brightened by those angels of mercy who descended upon him with compassion and eased the accumulated, heart-breaking, suffering he endured since Katrina. The only miraculous thing here, is that he endured so long, against such odds that would fell a healthy giant. His last words to me on Saturday morning, when he was "feeling so much better", were : "take good care of yourself now, ya hear !"
This humbled and devastated man gave US, so much more than WE were able to give him. Now, he is finally at rest.
There is more to do here for the faithful - y'all come back ."
The Sun Herald | 03/12/2006 | Helping ands:
"After coming down here in October, I felt like it was something I had to do,' Francis said. 'It completely changed what I want to do with my life. I feel something like this will make me much happier.'
Francis is one of about 300 students, faculty, alumni and community members from St. Bonaventure who spent last week ripping floors and walls out of houses destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Members of the group said they were working hard, but they're also having fun. The radio blared at one home they were gutting in East Biloxi, and students sang at the top of their lungs as they hauled out drywall and tile.
Their words were muffled by the masks they wore, but their enthusiasm was clear as they sang along to 'Don't Stop Believin' ' by Journey. The students said it is an appropriate song for South Mississippi.
More in article.
'It's amazing to be able to help people,' said Meghan Backus, also a senior at St. Bonaventure who came to the Coast in October and immediately began planning the spring-break trip."
Friday, March 10, 2006
The experiences at all the sites were somwhat different and I hope to be "blogging" about these differences in the coming days and weeks. However, it is sufficient to say that things went very well.
Today I spent the day doing what I like to do the most in Biloxi: gutting houses. It was the house that would not give up: a duplex that had been remodeled seemingly every day. This led to some unusual things including 10 layers of flooring in the basement and 4 ceilings throughout most of the house. Today we took down ceilings and walls in about 5 rooms. It is not quite done since we had to leave early to cath the bus.
I was beyond dirty by the end. I looked like I had been a coal miner. I will upload pictures from back in Olean.
Then, after saying they could not come to the get together of all the groups (one of several things that left me scatching my head this week), the buses arrived in Biloxi about an hour before the dinner and then had to wait until everyone ate.
At the dinner many people said they were ready to come again...so maybe.
Remember to sign up for the Yahoo group t0 upload pictures and to speak with others.
Thanks everyone (well most everyone ;) ) for a great week!
Hi, I'm Eileen, a sopohmore at Bonas. See my back-posts for the low-down on what i'm doing. Enjoy!
Day 4 and 5.
Wee these days. I'm really tired and blah, and haven't felt like camping out on the computer as much lately. Even if I'm just wandering around, I want to be doing that- I'll probably never get down to Mississippi again.
The dogs were a good break. I went to the Humane Society today to help out with the abandoned animals. I got dragged around a giant clearing by various huge animals, including a golden retriever (Ginger) and the most beautiful Great Dane I've ever seen (Buddy).
There were so many dogs, everything from boxer puppies to black labs. I walked dogs in the morning, outside. Then, I help at the loading dock sweeping and orginizing cages and whatnot. Next, I did laundry duty, folding and washing old towels and sheets for the puppies. The other girls got to give the new puppies baths.
I did mold again today, surprise. And I missed the sign up meeting because I took a nap. Ergo, mold duty again tomorrow. Four days of mold. They better take me to the site on a throne.
Can't complain too much. Maybe I let myself do mold because I have a mild crush on the cute hippie long-term volunteer that runs the team. Affectionately named Buckshot. Maybe. Oh, give me a break.
I like mold. We rocked out to everything from Phish to Sean Paul while working. Dance party in our Tyvek suits. And the Salvation Army provided us with lunch...tuna noodle casserole. Interesting choice for lunch, in the middle of a track and field.
The weather was gorgeous again. I'm nice and pink and freckle-y. Most of us are sporting tans, sunburns, and freckles.
Of couse it had to happen as well- Marti gra beads. Someone left a huge box of them out during dinner. I have at least a bagillion of them. Forget building houses and helping people fix thier lives, let's keep making pastic beads!! Haha. Rumor has it, I might get to go to New Orleans, because all the sites are meeting together down here for a fish-fry Friday. I hope it's there, that would be splendid.
I parused the campfire tonight too. It was nice and cozy. I can safely say it was my first campfire in the middle of March. And everyone plays guitar around here.
Gives good vibes.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
A few very fast updates:r
* Great news, I THINK we have arranged a home for the donated hopsital beds. Thanks NATE!
* I know the need the tax revenue, but it is sad to see towering casinos along side destroyed homes.
* The audio updates are so cool. Be sure to try them out!
* Mike Kasperski (New Orleans), Fr. Bob (SBP), Pauline Hoffmann(SBP) and their bus driver Calvin toured all of the camps and got a tour of the Biloxi area.
* Meghan arranged an interview with the Mayor of Gulfport.
* Brother Ed left just now (9:00 AM on Thursday). It is so sad to leave. It is even sad when friends leave. I did not know him at all before this trip planning began but what a cool guy. If you don't know him, you should make a big effort to meet him!
* It is sad to see people picking through the debris that has been put at curbside.
* 177 Lee is now a three day gutting job. It is a duplex that is really taking some time. In spite of the hard work, it has been a fun time.
* Rain is promised but has not come.
* The truck with the baseball equipment and the books is scheduled to arrive in Bay St. Louis by 12:00 today. Books will be distributed today in BSL, Friday in Biloxi.
* I ran three times yesterday!! I had only planned two, but at 10pm, when Bill Driscoll called to run, I could not say no.
* Fr. Dan came in for the rest of the week. He is doing the street crew today.
More later!!! I am finally going back out after a few hours of "office catch-up"
9 March 2002 @ 0500
Update on Jerre
Kathleen and I picked Jerre up at his van on 8 March at about 8:20, we were not expected but was very happy to see us. We drove to FEMA to get Jerre enrolled. Fortunately we were directed to Mr. Fred Boykin a retired Army First Sergeant. Mr. Boykin connected with Jerre immediately, they had both served in Viet Nam. He asked Jerre if he was enrolled in the agent orange program, he was not. So, Mr. Boykin called the VA hospital and scheduled an appointment for a physical on 9 March at 9:30. The physical is the first step in getting enrolled into the program. He also talked with Jerre about the “Homeless Veterans” program. Jerre had not heard about this program and there is a possibility that he could move to Alabama to a VA facility. Jerre commented that he would be interested in the program. Next we went to get Jerre enrolled in FEMA. A process that Jerre said he had tried three or four times without success. It took no longer than 15-20 minutes to get his information into the system. There was however, one piece of paper that FEMA needs; proof that Jerre was living at the VA hospital in Gulfport when the hurricane hit. After departing FEMA we went to the VA hospital and actually found the correct office, the right individual and obtained the piece of paper.
While we were sitting in a waiting room at the VA hospital a man sat down, looked at Jerre and said he looked familiar. Not unusual in a military setting. The man asked Jerre if he was homeless; had lived elsewhere; had a couple of sisters; and tools (Jerre mentioned to us that he had left a lot of tools behind in Gulfport). He then said the police were showing his picture around and that he had been reported as missing by his family. Jerre wanted to go to the police station to find out if in fact his sisters were looking for him. We explained his story, his name was entered into the computer, the clerk then informed Jerre that there was an outstanding warrant against him. My visions of a family finding out a loved one was not dead, quickly vanished. A sergeant explained to Jerre that he would be processed and then meet with the judge. During his processing the sergeant came out to talk with me about Jerre. He was released with a court date of later this month.
Today I will go with another student to pick Jerre up and transport him to the VA hospital for his physical.
This is one story of one person who is a victim of hurricane Katrina. It is extremely sad.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Day 3, Tuesday.
It was the best three minutes of my life.
All day was dusty and moldy and disgusting. I couldn't believe that the houses could get much worse. The woman's home we did today was filthy, and she had no way to get to it until today. We moved her mattresses and picture frames and old diplomas and chairs and even christmas decorations onto her porch. Suited up again, we were lucky enough to get a generator this time around and had grinders to get the stuff off the wood. Little more dangerous then wire brushes, but way faster.
The woman who owned the house was darling, wicked friendly and appreciative. She told us the horrible sotry about how she's been handling everything the last months. She fled to her cousins house first when the storm was coming, and eventually after hopping around to relatives got a FEMA trailer to put in her yard. She's stilla waiting insurance claims, and has no idea if and when she'll be able to move into her house and out of her side lawn.
I found out today the mold removal process we are doing could cost people up to 15 grand if they had someone professionally do it. That made me feel lots better and a little more purposeful. No one we're doing this for could ever afford that.
I'm so tired, i'm taking a break tomorrow and walking dogs at the humane society.
Food was decent tonight, they attempted asian. I suppose A for effort, it was more like meat and noodles with optional soy sauce. But it's all good.
Le tired, night.
AHHHH, the mosquitoes here are ginormous. One just flew into the light of my computer screen and gave me a heart attack.
Oh, the best three minutes? I too a shower tonight in the outdoors. I could see the stars. And, it was hot water, blessed hot water. It gets a bit cold at night around here. I scraped off at least three inches of dirt and grime off me. Best shower of all time, believe me.
Day 2, Monday.
Once we crossed the railroad tracks toward the gulf and our site, they houses simply were not there. Whole patches of ground are just covered with debrie. Houses, torn apart. There is a road along the ocean, palm trees on one side. It looks sort of like Florida, but classier. Well, it would've been classier is things were there. The only things completely restored are the giant white-walled casinos.
We suited up as we got to the house. First, tyvek full-bodied jumpsuits, from hood to foot. Next, respirators to filter out the mold spores, pollution, and dust. Goggles to keep all the shit out of out eyes, which didn't help in the end. Hammer, prybar, wire brushes, shovels, brooms check.
The house was terrible. The whole neighborhood was demolished. The house we worked out was completely stripped down the studs. We had to go in and scrub the wood, get rid of all the black mold that could cause respiratory problems when they start to rebuild. The foundation was gone, so the floors were crooked and unstable. Cinder blocks held up the whole house.
All sorts of stuff was still in the front yard. The hurricane hit 7 months ago, and still yards were trashed. People wrote thier new addresses in spraypaint on thier houses so people can find them. Most businesses are shut down, espcecially the local ones. Grass is gone. Apparently, near the shore, water rose in 20 foot swells, completely covering most of the buldings withing 1000 feet of the water.
I worked with six other kids. I felt really bad, because my throat kept closing up. My eyes were really really irritated, because the wholehouse was filled with kicked-up dust. I struggled, but I did ok.
For lunch, we went to The Point. Th ocean is really pretty down here, looks like New Jersey beaches. While eating, we overlooked the water, and they had a bridge. It had folded in on itself, tons and tons of concrete, like a deck of cards. Incredible.
I must fly, thing are sort of looking up. I changed tents, a nice girl offered to share her air mattress with me. And, being by the ocean made me feel better, it reminded me of home. It'll be ok.
I'm Eileen Cotter, a sophomore Mass Communications/Journalism major at Bonas. I originally am from Massachusetts, about an hour south of Boston. I've been down here in Biloxi, Mississippi for a couple days, working on everything from mold removal to walking dogs. I keep my own blog at a different site that i've been updating everyday, and Jim asked me to share my expieriences here too.
It's very informal, but I thought some of you might appreicate what's going on from a student's point of view.
Have any questions or comments, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, i'll be hooked up to my own computer all week.
DAY 1, Sunday.
After a dinner of fried shrimp and 'slaw from Popeye's with Chantal and Jeff, we started on the last leg of the trip. About an hour from the site, I began to see the blue roofs. Every other house or so has giant blue tarps on thier destroyed and damagaed houses in the neighborhoods. You can see it from the straight roads. the trees are tall and straight, and the closer we got to the gulf the more trees were snapped in half, bent over. More and more.
Upon arrival, this is what came in sight first. Enter a large wharehouse house with temporary white walls. Crude tables and even cruder seats scatter the main concrete floor. Walking outback, heavy metal music in the air. A bunch of men have gathered on a black leveltop thing for a truck. We come in, and they start to jeer, watch out for the alligators in impossibly thick southern drawls. I'm sure it was all in jest- they know how to get the newcomers all riled up! The tents are military-style, spraypainted with names and graffiti. Cruse makeshift things out of large pieces of lumber scattered everywhere, skinny wooden crate walkways. It looks just like the scene in Forrest Gump when they all arrive in Veitnam for the first time. Mess hall line for food, with some sort of rice thing made is huge vats.
I'm sharing a small tent with two other girls. And all i've learned so far is to stay away from the three-legged dog.
I got on mold removal assignment tomorrow. I have to wear an anti-toxin suit thing. I really don't know if my nerves can take this right now, at all. I want to help so badly, I want to sacrifice my time, but this is going to be extrmemely difficult. I left a lot back at school and back home, so being here will be a challenge.
I'm going to mass across the street, a local hispanic one that a bunch of us are going to check out. I really need it.
At least the weather is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful, sunny and warm. The sunset was breathtaking. And hopefully I get to see the gulf tomorrow.
And, Sonic drive-ins to exist. I saw one with my own eyes.
"Dear friends and family,
"Packed together like Sardines in a can", is an expression that we often heard used to describe a situation such as exists on subway trains during the morning and evening rush hours in cities (like New York, where I spent the first 20+ years of my life). Of course, exotic and remote places like TOKYO, are often taken as examples and shown in films to illustrate the hectic and crowded pace of life in the 20th Century. But here in Biloxi ? Well, yes, here in Biloxi, former population 50,000, now 50% part- time residents and volunteers, the other 50%, old-timers who have managed to survive Katrina with their homes liveable.
Yesterday, 5 Hands On volunteers and I were introduced to GERRY, who lives in a storm-surged VAN (that's VAN, as in motor vehicle, not CAN, as in "sardine"). Virginia, his neighbor and local street "Kingpin" as Gerry called her, met Elizabeth (from Ohio) and I as we made our rounds on Lilly street in east Biloxi. Virginia, a recipient of a free winter coat on a cold and cloudy November morning, remembered me as "Mr. Bob, the doctor with Hands On USA". She wanted to show me the 'loaner' house she was camped out in, pending its demolition later this week. It was then that Virginia was forward enough to ask if I would "look in on Gerry, who was a very sick man". On the lot next to the one on which the 'loaner' house stood, was a storm ravaged van, former property of the owner of the lot on which the van sat, askew, 25 feet from the street, surrounded by a lone tree and the residual debris of the house once standing nearby. The "house" had been toppled or crushed and carted off by the contractor hired by FEMA and the City of Biloxi to eliminate all of the "dangers to health and safety" - former houses and "radical makeovers" created by the powerful and destructive forces of Katrina's nature.
Two neighborhood friends of Gerry's sat under the tree, visiting (or in vigil) with Gerry, who himself lay on one of the van's bench seats, turned sideways and facing the open sliding passenger door of the van - a rearrangement of the 'furniture' that permitted Gerry to exit and enter the Van more readily. You see, Gerry has become so short of breath from his Emphysema, High Blood Pressure, Congestive Heart Failure, and the other ravages of deconditioning, depression and repeated hopitializations, as to render him a disabled cardio-pulmonary cripple.
Gerry lay flat on his side, his face a pasty bluish hue, his breathing shallow and rapid, and his eyes closed, not in sleep for he was easily aroused by Virginia's greeting, but perhaps so as to mute his discomfort, and to shut out the world around him which, except for a few faithful and watchful neighbor-friends, offered him little ease.
Gerry sat up, with a pained and stiff effort, and acknowledge our greeting with a hoarse and weak voice. Like almost all the residents we encounter on our Street Team rounds, his initial reply to our "How 'ya doin", was to say, " well sir, I'm makin' it: takin' one day at a time, jest as it come" I t was obvious that Gerry was barely doing that - hanging in there, on the fine tightrope of advancing age and advancing disease, up where the slightess breeze could, at any moment, blow you down. He next told how his "biggest" problem right now was that he couldn't feel anything in his feet and legs, and that they were so weak, and he so "short on breath' with the least exertion - such as exiting the van to walk the few feet to a make shift biffy in order to pee - and dreading the awful minutes after such exertion that revealed in all its pathetic fullness, just how miserable a body his heart and soul was condemned to live in.
The van is a wreck, remaining in place at the oversight, or the mercy, of the demolition crew who were here just a day or two ago. Yet this is home for Gerry, surrounded by caring friends and visiting (and now caring) volunteers.
For two years before Katrina made him a displaced person and cast his lot among the thousands of healthier folk evacuated to "safety", he was a resident at the Veterans Administration Long Term Care facility in Gulfport. The facility is located near Beach Boulevard and faces the Mississippi Sound (Gulf of Mexico). Two hours before Katrina made landfall the director of the Home gave an evacuation order. Buses and other vehicles were hastily commandeered, and the residents were taken to a temporary triage building on one of the nearby military installations. A day or tow later they were moved, en masse to a Shelter. It was there that Gerry and the other 'sardines' spent a few weeks, until ad hoc FEMA 'social workers' could "assist them with placement in alternative housing. The choices were neither convenient nor local, and therefore, not attractive. Gerry chose to take his chances, and to go "home". It was then a friend was approached and offered Gerry the VAN.
It must be one thing to be one lowly sardine packed into a can with a dozen others, than to be one sardine in one can, alone. Gerry opted for the latter; who could blame him ? Neighbor-friends have called 911 twice in the past 65 weeks, and each time Gerry has been hospitalized at the VA hospital in west Biloxi. The VA hospital, situated as it is in the Katrina district, is not op[erating at full capacity, nor is it fully staffed or supplied - yes, even 6 months after Katrina came by. Gerry was discharged on Feb, 23rd, with a supply of the 10 medications he needs, and an order for oxygen "to be sent to his home". There is no oxygen in the van. Did the supplier not receive the order? Did they ignore it because other, more important, veterans need it first? Was the delivery truck unable to find his house because all they could see, when he was out cashing his benefits check, was an old wreck of a Van lying on the lot, and no one could be living in the debris pile that was once the house? Yes, Gerry does have a clearly marked mail box, at the sidewalk, with the house number on it.
Two days ago, again when Gerry was take for a ride by a neighbor, someone entered his van and took all his medication pills, leaving only his inhaler - a drug seeker or supplier, no doubt. Desperate Katrina victims preying on other victims, Two weeks earlier, shortly after discharge for the hospital, two strangers entered his van, while Gerry was sitting in it, and with threat to violence walked off with the $700 he had just that day brought back to the Van after cashing his benefits check. "It was stupid of me to do that, but I need the cash and didn't know where else to stash it, so's I could get at it easily".
Last night I shared Gerry's story and our observations, with the other Volunteers (260 of us 'packed like sardines' in our dining hall). Today I will get him a temporary supply of medications (it will take a week for the VA clinic to have his pharmacy request ready for pick up). Three others will visit him at his van and see what they can do to clean and straighten up the place,including laundering his pile of clothing and blankets. Others have already arranged to "build" some kind of sheltering roof over the Van, and perhaps a bench, so that visiting friends don't have to sit in Gerry's wheelchair (which the VA managed to deliver to his address 2 weeks ago). I heard enough feed-back after last night's report at HQ to sense that other help will be coming: Jonathan from Virginia wants to take Gerry to the VA clinics and , if possible pick up his oxygen, which Gerry desperately needs to use to forestall his demise, at least needs so that he can lie down and sleep at night.
What more we witnessed on our Street Rounds yesterday testified to the gracious beauty of neighbor helping neighbor, the love of family, the realization that, despite nearly overwhelming losses, in is within our God-given power to rise above our pain and suffering, discover that which is truly necessary and important to a whole and healthy life, and to find some ray of hop and happiness. As we said our temporary good-bys to Gerry yesterday, he sat up, smiling and even pink in color, and thanked us over and over for coming to visit him - and he, as yet, knows nothing about what more we will bring to his SARDINE HOME in the days ahead. No matter, the finest gift we can give him, and all the residents here, is a very simple one - it is our very presence and our concern. Gerry's neighbors, who have precious little themselves, showed us the way. There is little we cannot do, if we see Katrina's devastation with a human face.
Monday, March 06, 2006
We have a few things to correct, but I am sure that things will work out very well!
Sunday, March 05, 2006
"They sleep in church sanctuaries, RVs and tents. They leave behind jobs, schools and retirement for labor pilgrimages of days, weeks or months. Some have taken drastic measures, selling their homes and leaving family to move to the crushed Gulf Coast to devote themselves full time."
In Biloxi we just shopped for about 150 people. It was not as much fun as you would suspect. LOL...
Tomorrow we are having a picnic in Hancock County to give te little leagues their equipment. Also we are doing about 7 or 8 different jobs at out Biloxi site. Everything from molding abatement (which is what I think I am doing) to more house gutting, to administration, to preparing breakfast and lunch.
I haev had several people ask what has changed, so a VERY brief list:
- Wood walkways reduce the dirt getting into the building.
- Third stairway is completed
- Streets are MUCH cleaner
- No more Free Lunches. No MREs so Lunch is whatever leftovers we have plus sandwiches etc.
- The Humans Societ moved today.
- Quieter at lights out.
- Braclets to ID everyone.
Many really cool people are doing tons of reallly good work!
Much of today was spent running erands and waiting for the buses. Although we did get to shop for 160 people.
It is always exciting to see others from past trips. Ran into Bill Driscoll (Sr.) tonight.
well I am exhausted and tomorrow we have to prep breakfast, so I better get going.
It is from Channel 2 in Buffalo. The video is good too!
"There are so many other things we could be doing on Spring Break. But to go do something that's worthwhile and do something that actually means something on a Spring Break, it's exciting," said Saint Bonaventure student Matt Lundgren.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Today the student site leaders and myself toured the 5 sites where we will be working over the next week. We went from Biloxi to St. Bernards Parish and back.
A very quick recap:
HandsonNetwork-Gulf Coast (Biloxi: While we did not get into East Biloxi, the area around Pass Road and the Airport is looking much much better. Most garbage is cleaned up, and some construction has started.
The site is largely unchanged since before. One large improvement from my last trip ois an extra 2 showers. I do not know how many people are here today, but it seems the least of my three trips. That will change quickly however!
CampCostCare (Long Beach): housed in a gymnasium on a fairly rural road, this is where over 100 of our volunteers will be staying. It is clean, rural, and well organized by a great grop of people led by Van.
Handson Network-Bay St. Louis: this is being housed in a school across from A church. This site has been in business for a while but is now sort of doing a joint venture with Handson. Today Handson was putting in showers for volunteers. The site is being led by Fr. Sebastian and Beau from Handson. The area is devastated beyond words.
Handson Network-New Orleans: again this site is just coming on line. The multilevel facility has unbelievable potential. They are working on the fringes of the Garden district. This site is definitely going to be operational for years to come. While I would not like the running environs, this looks like a site where you can make a big impact on an area very quickly.
Common-Ground in Violet (St. Bernard Parish). This area is easily 4 months behind. Gutting work is still going on as the people's suffering continues. This will be the most primitive of our camps as they are still running on generator power!
What great camps. We never expected to have such a great set of camps to work with. Upon leaving every camp today, I always felt envious of those staying to work.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
While I would encourage you to read the whole thing, YOU MUST READ THE three paragraphs following "I still keep in touch". WOW.
I will keep an eye on the blog. If anything I wrote can help then please use it .
The need down there is still so real though.
I still keep in touch with the group I went down there with and they are making once-a-month trips. There was a trip at the end of January in which the group headed out on an assignment one morning and totally botched the address.
They pulled up in their vehicles, descended on the house and explained to the disoriented, elderly couple living there that they were the group from the church and were there to assess and fix things.
It wasn't until after they had finished with the house that they discovered they were at the wrong address. That was also when the tearful couple told them that the night before they had shown up they had made a suicide pact. Here it was almost a half a year after Katrina, they were still living in a mold infested house with a leaky roof. They had exhausted (or thought they had) every avenue for assistance and apparently had lost all hope.
They went to bed deciding to end it all and the very next morning an entire group of people with all the tools and supplies needed to fix their house "just showed up" and asking for nothing in returned helped them out of a very deep and dark hole.
I personally had several encounters where we would seem to "just happen" to find ourselves in the exact right place at the exact right time with exactly the right tools to help people who needed it. Several times we would go to work a site that wasn't as bad as we had thought it would be but we would find a neighbor in desperate need.
We even stopped at the wrong house one time and were met by a frazzled 80+ year old widow who had been promised a trailer by FEMA but SHE had to clear a spot for it in her yard and had to have it done by the end of that day. Even if she had owned a chainsaw she couldn't have lifted it ... but all of a sudden, there we were.
It is rather staggering to find out after having helped someone that, finding themselves with no where else to turn they had actually prayed for help and then you just showed up.
Share that thought with people.
If they go down there they will undoubtedly be used as the answer to someone's prayer.
"How" may not be revealed to them as dramatically as with these stories but they WILL be used.
There are so many tragic things going on in this world right now that we as individuals can't realistically do anything about. This though is that opportunity.
The first email (only slightly edited)
I came across your page detailing your relief work on the coast and I wanted to say thanks.
I went on 2 such trips in the weeks directly following Katrina's landfall. We were working from Gulfport to Bay St. Louis. The destruction was haunting but more haunting were the people we encountered. Days before, many of them "had it all." Then they woke up and had nothing.
Almost all of them just needed to talk with someone who could at least act like they cared if they lived or died.
I was prepared for hard work and physical discomfort. I wasn't prepared for the "spiritual" heavy lifting which was perhaps the most important thing any of us could do there at that time. In many places along the coast that is still probably the most important thing that needs doing.
Simple acts of human kindness.
I try to impress that on people who have expressed an interest in helping but don't think they can climb on a roof or carry moldy sheet rock. I point out that these houses have owners and that sitting down with them and listening to them talk or vent or cry could easily be the most important thing anyone on that team could do.
Your pictures bring it back. I see them and I can still smell the mold. I can still smell the horror of a "dead" refrigerator. I can still feel the anguish of those we tried to help. I can still see them crying.
My thoughts go with all of you who are still helping and will be needed to help for years to come.