Katrina Experiences, Part III: Journey to the Coast and From Kansas, With Love

 

[Editor’s Note: This is the third part in Concretevol’s series describing his experiences volunteering on the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago this week. Catch-up with the other parts here and here].

To give volunteers a break from the blistering heat — and because they were dying to see something other than that parking lot — we started taking groups to the coast to see for themselves what a 20′ wall of water leaves behind. Now, I will try to tell you, or show you, as best I can. Though I’ve never seen a bomb-blasted landscape before in person, I’ve seen pictures and that was really the only way to describe the first quarter mile inland. There was very little left of the houses other than bare concrete slabs… maybe a mailbox, or a post here or there. There wasn’t much debris there, either: most of it sitting on top of other destroyed houses further inland. It was also very quiet, with only the occasional sound of a helicopter flying overhead or a motor grader clearing sand from Beach Boulevard. There was very little talking in the truck on these outings. Just shocked silence.

DSC02814

Notice how the telephone poles all slanted inland.

 

As we went further inland, the devastation became more apparent.

DSC01668

The Highway 90 bridge across the bay to Gulfport didn’t fair too well. The harbor, railroad bridge, and piers had all mostly disappeared.

After seeing such tragedy, the people I took out worked even harder than before to help their fellow Americans. Their fellow human beings. There was so much to be done. So much need everywhere you turned. I can’t emphasize enough how uplifting it was to see people help strangers.

One of the best examples involved a truck from Kansas. It was getting late, and we had a big group of college kids from Southern Adventist University who were about to head back Lumberton to get some rest after a long day’s work, when a massive truck with a 48-foot trailer pulled into the lot. It had been packed to the gills with donated goods and the drivers had simply taken off for the coast. They had been to several relief centers, but no one would accept — let alone unload — their truck! The drivers were pretty frustrated with the rejection by the time I went over to talk to them.

I soon called over the college leaders and told them what we needed, and we then got a bunch of the kids over for a pep talk. You see, there was a catch: nothing on the truck was sorted, labeled, or on pallets. That meant we had to hand-unload the trailer and sort through all the goods and it was already 5 PM. Hardly a picnic by any means. But after I’d explained the situation, the leaders and the kids gave a resounding “Let’s get started!” It was another of those “never forget moments” for me and we did our best to keep everyone happy and hydrated.

Here are a few shots from that day:

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Did I mention that kids had written messages all over that trailer? Who could turn that away?

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In all the sorting, a few of the girls found matching mini-skirts that were donated for God knows what reason … perhaps just for us that day. The truck drivers had a big time taking pictures of our “models.” Too bad Mike LaRoche couldn’t be there!

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There might be one more installment coming to wrap things up; so many stories keep coming back to me. It’s hard to sum up a month or more down there, but I hope some of this gives a small look at what happened a decade ago.

 

There are 20 comments.

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  1. captainpower Inactive
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    previous posts in the series:

    • #1
  2. captainpower Inactive
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    I will have to read your posts later.

    Katrina always makes me think of an IT/security worker (“The Interdictor”) who stayed behind to keep some servers running for domain name service Directnic.

    He blogged each day of the drama and it was one of the best sources of on-the-ground information at the time when so much incorrect information was coming out of the media.

    http://interdictor.livejournal.com/2005/08/

    His first post in the series on August 27, 2005 at 11:05 PM reads simply: “Hmm. This could actually be a nasty storm.”

    • #2
  3. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I worked on a book by Sheri Fink called Five Days at Memorial, about the situation during the hurricane run-up and aftermath at the main hospital in New Orleans.

    What was described vividly throughout the book was the horrific heat and humidity that followed the storm. I don’t know how anyone could think straight.

    God bless the workers who went there, as you did, to help.

    The important message for everyone to take away from the New Orleans experience with Katrina is that all communities need to work on worst-case-planning scenarios. All communities. When people have some idea of what to do, the outcomes are always better. Community leaders needs to consider the worst that could possibly happen. We tend to quiet our fears by constantly saying, “That wouldn’t happen.” But once a year, we should think, “What if it did?”

    One thing I have always found inspiring in times of great crisis like Hurricane Katrina is the way leaders emerge. It is like clockwork.

    People should always have faith in each other. There are good and smart and capable people all around us all the time.

    • #3
  4. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    captainpower: He blogged each day of the drama and it was one of the best sources of on-the-ground information at the time when so much incorrect information was coming out of the media.

    That’s good stuff.  We were all pretty much in a news blackout down there and too busy to listen to it anyway but when I drove back home for a break I was very….frustrated..with the reporting.  Focused totally on New Orleans and not at all representative with what I saw.

    • #4
  5. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Concretevol. Great post.  Inspirational, heartening  . . . and at the end – pretty darned adorable. (those ‘skirts’:)  I’m so glad captain power referenced your previous posts.

    And Marci – Wise words.   It’s just so human to live as though ‘it can’t happen here/to me’.

    • #5
  6. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    MarciN: I worked on a book by Sheri Fink called Five Days at Memorial, about the situation during the hurricane run-up and aftermath at the main hospital in New Orleans. What was described vividly throughout the book was the horrific heat and humidity that followed the storm. I don’t know how anyone could think straight.

    That looks like an interesting book, may have to order it.  Yes it was extremely hot but it was dry, which was so important for all those people living under tarps in their front yard.

    • #6
  7. Jojo Inactive
    Jojo
    @TheDowagerJojo

    Concretevol:

    captainpower: He blogged each day of the drama and it was one of the best sources of on-the-ground information at the time when so much incorrect information was coming out of the media.

    That’s good stuff. We were all pretty much in a news blackout down there and too busy to listen to it anyway but when I drove back home for a break I was very….frustrated..with the reporting. Focused totally on New Orleans and not at all representative with what I saw.

    Exactly.  Reading your story I have been embarrassed that I had no idea how bad it was there.  All I remember was the people stuck in the Superdome and in the attics of their houses in New Orleans.

    MArci, FEMA makes municipalities put together disaster plans now if their citizens want to buy flood insurance.  They contain a lot of baloney but  some actual planning.

    • #7
  8. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Thanks for all the posts. Now I know a bit more about what people really went through & it makes for a lot of head-shaking. It’s impressive to see so many people working for the sake of people who need the help. It seems, we’re all in need of that, everywhere, always.

    • #8
  9. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    captainpower:previous posts in the series:

    Why do I not know how to do this?

    • #9
  10. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Titus Techera:Thanks for all the posts. Now I know a bit more about what people really went through & it makes for a lot of head-shaking. It’s impressive to see so many people working for the sake of people who need the help. It seems, we’re all in need of that, everywhere, always.

    The impressive thing about so many of the locals is they just wanted the opportunity to help themselves.  The New Orleans story (much of which has proven to be fiction) does not apply in the slightest to the areas I worked in.

    • #10
  11. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Jojo: Exactly.  Reading your story I have been embarrassed that I had no idea how bad it was there.  All I remember was the people stuck in the Superdome and in the attics of their houses in New Orleans.

    The entire event seemed to become a vehicle in the media to blame Bush for New Orlean’s own unpreparedness and the incompetence of the Corp of Engineers.

    • #11
  12. MJBubba Inactive
    MJBubba
    @MJBubba

    Concretevol:

    Jojo: Exactly. Reading your story I have been embarrassed that I had no idea how bad it was there.   …

    The entire event seemed to become a vehicle in the media to blame Bush for New Orlean’s own unpreparedness and the incompetence of the Corp of Engineers.

    Agreed on the media.  They did a mostly poor job of reporting but a great job of spin; by “great” I mean that they made the W administration look bad and provided lots of fodder for the chattering of the Progressives.

    I don’t think it is all that fair to say the Corps of Engineers was incompetent.

    The New Orleans flood wall design investigation (direct link to the .pdf):

    http://www.urbanflood.eu/Documents/Failure%20of%20the%20New%20Orleans%2017th%20street%20canal%20levee%20and%20floodwall.pdf

    There were lots of contributing factors.  Most of the faults in this report are findings that the Corps guys were following their normal practices, and that there was no mechanism to take new findings and use them to revisit prior decisions that had been made on previous projects that were complete.

    That, and, though they knew that some kinds of vegetation along levees is good, and other kinds of vegetation is bad, there was no monitoring or enforcement regarding vegetation in these critical areas.

    Plus the usual case of a Louisiana contractor cutting corners a little here and a little there.

    • #12
  13. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    MJBubba: Plus the usual case of a Louisiana contractor cutting corners a little here and a little there.

    That I don’t doubt.  That area has always been shady when it comes to construction.  If you wanna play, some Boudreaux needs a cut.  :)

    Maybe I was over enthusiastic in blaming the Corp….My basic point is there were engineering problems in New Orleans instead of an evil W trying to kill black people.  That sounds ridiculous when I say it now but that wasn’t at all far from what was being “reported” and of course touted by those smitten with Bush Derangement Syndrome.

    • #13
  14. captainpower Inactive
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    Concretevol: Why do I not know how to do this?

    That’s unknowable for me, but here’s some help.

    1)

    http://ricochet.com/kb-links/

    via

    http://ricochet.com/category/kb/

    2) Video I uploaded (those last 3 words are a link) of making the links below

    Let me know if anything was unclear in the video. I can re-do it if that would be helpful.

    • #14
  15. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    captainpower: That’s unknowable for me, but here’s some help.

    Hahahahaha….well I’m not dumb but I may be ignorant  :)

    Thanks for the help!

    • #15
  16. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    captainpower:

    Concretevol: Why do I not know how to do this?

    That’s unknowable for me, but here’s some help.

    1)

    http://ricochet.com/kb-links/

    via

    http://ricochet.com/category/kb/

    2) Video I uploaded (those last 3 words are a link) of making the links below

    Let me know if anything was unclear in the video. I can re-do it if that would be helpful.

    Captain Power, you are an unsung hero on Ricochet. You so often fix links and help in other ways around here.

    Thank you for making this a better place. :)

    • #16
  17. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Great posts – really good too see your on-the-ground perspective.

    And many thanks for your hard work on behalf of those poor folks who suffered so much.

    • #17
  18. captainpower Inactive
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    MarciN:

    captainpower:

    Concretevol: Why do I not know how to do this?

    That’s unknowable for me, but here’s some help.

    1)

    http://ricochet.com/kb-links/

    via

    http://ricochet.com/category/kb/

    2) Video I uploaded (those last 3 words are a link) of making the links below

    Let me know if anything was unclear in the video. I can re-do it if that would be helpful.

    Captain Power, you are an unsung hero on Ricochet. How often do you fix links and help in other ways around here?

    Thank you for making this a better place. :)

    Aw shucks. Just following the golden rule. I really wanted those links to be in the article, but they weren’t, so I linked them.

    I also will hunt down sources a lot the time if people don’t link them, like when they quote an article or a tweet.

    I figure it’s better to just do it myself than to become insufferable by asking people for such links all the time.

    • #18
  19. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Can I add my thanks & say, the captain has more than once saved people from my laziness, too, & has come up with all sorts of links! I try to link more just to live up to his standards!

    • #19
  20. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    That’s why he is a Captain! :)

    • #20
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