Sunday, September 11, 2005

I hate Katrina

Ugh. The aftermath of this storm is something we won't forget anytime soon. I am sickened by everything that has happened since Katrina hit. I feel blessed that we were not in the direct path of the storm and that life is pretty much back to normal here in Mobile, Alabama. While there are some parts of Mobile that are still deeply affected by the flood waters, a good portion of Mobile is back to "business as usual." Rhea and I went to a movie last night, my first in over 2 weeks. It was actually my first chance to do anything recreational at all.

I also feel blessed that I am able, through my job, to be a part of the relief effort. Though working very long hours and not getting weekends off can be exhausting at times, everyone at our food bank feels the same way: we are working to help people survive, people who do not have homes anymore, who cannot just drive to the grocery store and get food, who cannot just drive to Ruby Tuesday's and have dinner. This is the thing that drives us and helps us keep going even when we are ready to collapse.

So here's an account of my experiences in hurricane relief. On Sunday, September 4, we arranged for about 20 volunteers (including my mother and my best friend) to go to Biloxi for a food distribution. My boss and I had gone the day before and had located a good site for the distribution, the parking lot of a ruined grocery store owned by one of our board members. He had told us we could use the parking lot. There were some amazing National Guard guys there passing out water and ice, but they didn't have food to give out, so we brought three truck loads of food boxes, bleach, and diapers and spent the day passing them out. It was a blazing hot day in Biloxi, and people lined up in their cars to get the supplies we were passing out. I heard so many stories that day, of people who were helping their neighbors and getting supplies for people in nursing homes and apartment complexes. I am amazed by the people in Mississippi, who are obviously determined to show everyone that not all victims of Hurricane Katrina will resort to rape and murder to get what they want. It was enough to restore my faith in humanity.

Another thing that helped restore that faith was the number of people that just drove up to our site with donations. They came from everywhere with cars, trucks, and vans packed with things they had collected for hurricane survivors. Several people from Florida came over with packed cars. They unloaded all their supplies and we gave them out. Two ladies drove up in a pickup truck, the bed loaded with bananas. And this was a really cool thing, because no more than five minutes after we unloaded the bananas a man drove up and said he was suffering from a serious lack of potassium and was experiencing swelling and cramping in his legs. We gave him a case of bananas and he was so happy to see them. It was such a great feeling to be able to help him and all the other Biloxi residents.

We went back a few days later and distributed more food, and drove around trying to find a church that serves as one of our agencies. We were unable to find the church, but we saw devastation the likes of which I have never seen before... and I've lived on the Gulf Coast for 28 years. It was just unbelievable. There were houses in the middle of the road, buildings completely leveled, and cars destroyed by trees and water.

I don't really want to go back unless it is to give out food again, because I just don't want to see it. But if I'm going to give out food, there will be a good reason to go back and I will do that. But I could live the rest of my live and never smell that smell again. I don't know how the people who live there can stand it. In Biloxi, there is an intense smell of rotting seafood and poultry, moldy and mildewed buildings, and death. It is almost unbearable.

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