11/07/2005

Volunteers Along the Coast

There are so many church groups that have sent down volunteers that are helping with clean-up on the Mississippi Gulf coast and in Louisiana. A friend of Esther's from Outside the Blogway is volunteering with the Hilltop Rescue who are currently in Slidell LA. She will be in Tylertown MS to help with animal rescues.

Last night, I cried for a long time after reading another post Esther had from an e-mail from this friend Alex's Mom Checks Back In. Below is an excerpt:

I "mucked" today -- and it sucked! (But not for the reasons you might think - read on) Imagine a house that, at one time had 4 to 5 feet of standing water, not to mention now in it's ninth week with no power or water - think about what nine weeks with no power can do to the contents of a refrigerator and freezer. As one of the guys said tonight, "I smelled smells that no one should ever have to smell." The standing water was now gone, but the dampness was there, and the mold was growing up the walls. The mattresses and upholstered furniture were still soaked, and the dresser drawers were stuck closed, but full of water! Standard operating procedure with the refrigerators is to duct tape them closed - very well - and then haul them out. And you have no idea how heavy a soaking wet sofa bed is. First we carried everything out to the side of the road. You just pile the stuff up and eventually FEMA comes and picks it up. It took hours to empty the house - there was little to nothing we were able to salvage. But it wasn't so much the smell, or the dirt, or the heat, or the hard work that made it such a hard day - not that any of that was any fun - it was that Miss Helen, the homeowner was there, having just come back after being evacuated to her daughter's, and saw her house for the first time. She is 82 years old, has lived in the house for 40 years with her husband who just passed away last year.


There are so many stories like Miss Helens. I will tell you about one that I know. She had evacuated to a northern MS town to be with her son. When she came back, Hurricane Katrina's 20 foot storm surge had left nothing but a pile of rubble. She had lost her husband the previous year. She is a spry, outgoing, funloving woman in her 80's. It was hard to see the changes in her when she saw what was left of her home.

She and her daughter spent days around the property searching for anything that could be salvaged. They were mainly looking for family photos and family memorabilia. There was nothing much left.

I am happy to report that the look of shock on her face is being replaced. She is one of the lucky few that has already received a FEMA trailer. But it is her story and too many others like it that make me weep. For Hurricane Katrina has been very hard on the elderly. The obituary page in my local newspaper is usually one page. Since Hurricane Katrina struck, it's been two to three pages a day. It is full of the elderly that have died since Hurricane Katrina hit. It also has one or two a day of those who were killed during Hurricane Katrina. Identification has been extremely slow on identifying the 228 Mississippi victims of Katrina. There are still just under a hundred people unaccounted for.

But volunteers like Esther's friend are giving hope to so many. They are our heroes down here. It takes a very caring person to come down, learn to use a chainsaw, pull sheetrock covered in mold, and deal with the stench filled mess of refrigerators and freezers that have not had power for weeks. They are working in Louisiana and in Mississippi and my heartfelt thanks goes out to all of them.

Linked:Hurricane Blogcarnival

3 Comments:

Blogger Esther said...

Thanks for posting this. My friend is absolutely amazing. What I haven't said on my blog for various reasons is that the reason she has the time to do this is that she was just let go from her job. Most of us would sit home and wallow. Look what she's doing. And those stories, from her and from you, simply break my heart. Mostly cause I know they're only the tip of the iceberg. The enormity of it all is heartbreaking.

9:28 AM  
Anonymous Felis said...

"She is one of the lucky few that has already received a FEMA trailer."
Unfortunately her family photos, small gifts from her husband are all gone.
It must be like having a part of one's life removed.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous seawitch said...

esther,

It is the tip of the ice berg. I could about two of my bosses and their wives, their mother, my sister and what she is going through, my brothers who are living behind barbed wire. It goes on and on.

felis,

I cried when my one of bosses wives found a few scant family photos of their children and she was ecstatic. It can be so heartbreaking and yet, all are facing this with a resolve and quiet dignity that is awesome to behold. There's a lot of tears but there is also a lot of laughter.

4:00 PM  

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