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wellstone dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 08:31 PM
Original message
My afternoon at a Katrina Service Center
This is the second time I've tried to write it. I wish I were good with words. This afternoon I worked at the Katrina Service Center in Minnesota

The 5 families I served in the 5 hours I was there touched me deeply.

As I listened to the radio as I drove the 1 1/2 hours home, I wished that the people in congress could spend 5 hours talking to 5 families.

I talked with an man in his 80s. He found a picture of his house on the internet and saw only the roof. He lost everything because when he evacuated he thought he would be coming home in a few days. He told me that he was already cold, even though he was wearing a sweater. He was afraid of the future.

I talked with a Vietnamese couple, in their 60s but looking to be much older, who couldn't speak English. They had lived here when they first immigrated last year, but had moved to NOLA because they feared the cold. They smiled at me as there interpreter told me what they needed. As they left they left the wife grabbed my hand and said "Thank you." The interpreter told me those were the only English words she knew.

I spoke to a man who had bought a used car in Minnesota, which didn't run. He wanted to get to California but was afraid he would need to spend the winter here.

I talked to a woman who was staying in a home loaned by a friend but the foreclosure date expired today and they were told they had to leave tonight. She bravely talked about moving again.

I spoke to a young woman who shook and had tears in her eyes the whole time we spoke.

Everyone was so kind and appreciative. Several people stopped back and shook my hand several times as they passed the cubicle, going from agency to agency. All seemed to be holding on to the little hope they could find. A minister stopped and told me "Bless you for being here."

I heard a radio report where someone said, "immediate needs have been met, Congress is moving on to longer term planning." and I started to cry because the immediate needs have been met, but it is not enough. There is no understanding of the devastating loss.

I'm so glad I got to be there. And when I got home my daughter said, "I made you cookies because I'm so proud of what you did today."
And I started to cry.
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mandyky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 08:34 PM
Response to Original message
1. {{HUGS}}
God Bless you - I am crying right along with you. You also did well with your daughter!
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Extend a Hand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 08:35 PM
Response to Original message
2. what a sweet daughter!
:hug:

I just can't imagine the courage it's going to take for these folks to "move on"

Thank you for your efforts and your beautifully written report

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Mortos Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 08:36 PM
Response to Original message
3. I truly enjoyed your story and you are a fine writer.
Many members of my family have been affected, not by Katrina, but by Rita. They have been trying to get help but it is slow in coming. These are working class people who have never asked anyone for a dime, but they need help now.

I think what you did was wonderful, not only for the survivors of Katrina but also for yourself and your daughter. Leading by example.

Good job.
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Lindsay Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 08:37 PM
Response to Original message
4. Thank you for helping
and for sharing your story.

And for raising such a sweet daughter.
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redwitch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 08:38 PM
Response to Original message
5. I'm proud of you too!
It sounds like a really emotional experience. You are a good person. And you have a great kid.
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Cha Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 08:45 PM
Response to Original message
6. I connected to your story,
too..very emotionally :(

Hopefully, with time these People will heal..the ones who are still alive.

We have someone I know from our town going down, tomorrow, to Baton Rouge for 3 weeks to act as a supervisor in the shelters. He took a red cross course to prepare him. The weather is suppose to be around 100 degrees with high humidity. And they have to wear closed shoes and no tank tops. :P
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pitohui Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 08:50 PM
Response to Original message
7. you wrote it just fine
as an fyi the vietnamese come to new orleans & biloxi not just because of the weather but because there are already large vietnamese communities here, there is a very large vietnamese community in new orleans east or at least there was, i suspect these communities have been v. hard hit because of the destruction of the shrimping industry
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Gloria Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 08:59 PM
Response to Original message
8. Straight to the heart of the matter... thanks for this reflection
on your experiences....
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finecraft Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Sep-28-05 10:27 PM
Response to Original message
9. As a Louisiana resident, I say "Thank God for people like you"
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for the kindness and generosity you have shown to my Louisiana brethren. I live along the Louisiana coast, in New Iberia, between where Katrina hit and Rita hit. It is devastating. Sometimes it is all I can do to keep from crying continuously. The people of Louisiana may not be monetarily wealthy, but most are strong in spirit and wealthy in character. The pain and suffering that Katrina and Rita have caused is almost too much to bear.

Every coastal community here has been shaken to their very core...some communities are totally destroyed, others battered by the winds and water until little remains to start over with. Some, like my community, suffered some physical damage of the storms, but we remained intact enough to allow us to help the most needy among us...those without shelter, clothes, food or in a lot of cases, families that tried to find missing loved ones, or had members that had been scattered to the four winds. We did all we could to help those that came from Eastern Louisiana...from New Orleans, Slidell, Mandeville, Kenner, St. Bernard and others. Our community's population swelled with over 5,000 Katrina victims, each with their own horror stories of lives destroyed with little hope of ever returning to normal.

Then, last week, the unthinkable happened, and we lost the cities along our western coastline. And again the victims poured in from Hurricane Rita. They arrived on airboats, pontoon boats, jon boats, tractors, helicopters, and high-water army vehicles. All day long the survivors plucked from their flooded homes arrived and were deposited on the first piece of high land for miles....the local Lowes parking lot. The boats would pull up the Lowe's driveway, drop their passengers off, then take off down flooded Highway 14 back to towns miles away to get more people that were trapped in their homes. The highway now looked like a giant canal, and as they approached small towns along the coast they would have to guide their boats around hazards like tombs of the deceased that the floodwaters had knocked off their final resting places, now drifting aimlessly down the highway. It was surreal.

Some towns in our Parish, like Delcambre, were totally destroyed. Towns we visited on long summer drives along the coast like Pecan Island, Esther, Cameron, Holly Beach are all just now memories. Our coastal towns were not like the slick beach front tourist meccas in Florida or Mississippi or Alabama. Ours were hard working, hard living fishing towns, shrimping villages, rice and crawfish farms, vast marsh cattle ranches or communities built and inhabited by offshore oilfield workers. What will these people do? The fishing, shrimping, inland aquaculture, and rice growing industries are decimated, and will take years to recover...if ever. What will these people do? You may be able to train a medical office manager to be a hotel office manager....but it's going to be real hard to train a shrimper to be a computer programmer. And it's not like they can go to Minnesota to restart their professions and catch shrimp.

I grieve for my state. I cry for those that lost everything, and I cry for what Louisiana has lost. I get angry because I can't do more to help....I would like to help every person, but I can't. I feel guilty because I was one of the fortunate ones and didn't lose everything, and I am terrified that one day soon I will.... when the next storm approaches and aims to finish the job the first two hurricanes started, the total destruction of the Louisiana coastline.

I don't know what the future holds for the state I love and the people I have always cherished. I was not born here, but Louisiana "adopted" me and I have lived in joy here for the past 25 years. I thank you and everyone like you that has opened their arms and hearts to the people of Louisiana that are so in need now. I can only hope that one day they will be able to return, because they are what made Louisiana special. If not, please be assured that they are some of the best people you will ever know, and they will never forget your kindness, nor will I.

Thank You :grouphug:
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wellstone dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-29-05 06:45 AM
Response to Original message
10. When I did this I did not expect to be so changed
but I should have known that being able to put a face on what happened makes a tremendous difference. The news is different now. When people say, "Mistakes were made." I want to jump through the television set and take them by the neck and say, "It's not that simple. This should not have happened. People are suffering because we put money over people's lives, because we put politics over people's lives, because we believe some lives matter more."

If you have a chance to provide some service to evacuees, to victims of this country's crimes, do so. You will be a better person.
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katinmn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-29-05 07:31 AM
Response to Original message
11. I wish we could assign every member of Congress to
Edited on Thu Sep-29-05 07:31 AM by katinmn
community service in aid to the evacuees.

How many of THEM have spent time with the evacuees who are in such desperate need?

They, like Sen. Coleman, believe that by approving a budget they've done their jobs. He sent me a letter and he was soooo proud that the Senate approved bdget -- like everything was done that needed to be done.

They have lost nothing and they are so out of touch.

Perhaps if forced to sit and listen and watch they might become human again.

Thanks for sharing your experience.
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Spike from MN Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-29-05 08:32 AM
Response to Reply #11
13. Great idea
but unfortunately it would be nothing but a photo-op for the vast majority of them. They would be there strictly for political reasons and not to actually help the evacuees. You're definitely right that they're out of touch. And there's no chance that Norm Coleman will ever become human. If he does, I'll have to consider leaving the human race because the standards would have dipped too low.

Wellstone Dem, thanks for helping out. Where is the Katrina Service Center in MN? If I ever get over this cold, I'd like to stop by and see what I can do to help out.
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Callalily Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Sep-29-05 07:59 AM
Response to Original message
12. Thanks so much wellstone dem
and firecraft, your stories are truly moving, have indeed touched my heart. And it's true, our politicos have NOT done enough. They are not comprehending the true destruction of lives that has taken place. What will it take to put genuine compassion into their hearts?
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