Katrina Experiences, Part IV: An Angel Named Renee and the Chinese Tents

 

DSC01848[Editor’s Note: This is the fourth part in the author’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, here, and here].

In addition to the chaos of the relief station, we needed to get out into the community and help. The problem was time: no matter how hard we worked, there was only so much daylight and we were already pushing the envelope. That’s when God stepped in and sent an angel named Renee and her crew. They had come down from the Atlanta area and set up next to our lot in a camper. Her priority was bringing relief to people that couldn’t get to us. The reason I call her an angel is because that is exactly how so many of the people she helped — many of whom had lost everything — saw her. In short time, and with the help of her small crew, we developed a tremendous partnership.

DSC01781

Renee would spend hours scouring the back roads and neighborhoods in the area surrounding our station. Then, she would come to me with a list of supplies people needed and we’d load her up. I decided it was more effective to just make it happen then to go through a lot of paperwork, since we were barely able to keep track of what was coming in and out. Frankly, inventory was not a priority to me while people were still living under tarps in their front yards. Having a “mobile arm” was invaluable to our efforts. I was able to meet people with her occasionally and see her in action.

Here’s some of the people we visited on one of her missions of mercy:

DSC01765

DSC01769

Below, is typical example of the living quarters many families endured. A tent and whatever they could dry out in the yard:

DSC01803
As we organized things in Waveland, we constantly worried about the prospect of rain. Everything we had was stored outside, and most of the tarps we could round up were used to cover roofs or build makeshift tents. Even though it was very hot, we prayed against rain.

Debriefing at the base in Lumberton each night, we would plead for tents. Big tents. Over and over, we heard that the military would bring some down any day. Well, one day some tents did arrive: from the Chinese military! We had a truckload of green, extremely heavy, canvas tents, maybe 16′ on a side. All the paperwork and writing on the tents was in Chinese, but we figured them out eventually.

Renee was ecstatic when I told her about the tents and she was invaluable in getting them out to the public. It was another instance where some paperwork may have been somewhat … retroactive. Believe me, there were several jokes made about how we got tents from the Chi-Coms (and a few private donors) before the US government. Here is one of our Chinese beauties and a “civilian” tent we were able to commandeer as an older gentleman’s new home.

DSC01789

???????????????????????????????

Remembering now how unbreakable the locals were after such devastating losses has been encouraging. There was the cheerful little old lady who had ridden out Hurricane Camille in her house years before, but who came home to find that Katrina had dropped a tree on her house; as if that wasn’t bad enough, the waters had floated and wedged her refrigerator between the door and the wall, making it impossible for her to get in. There were also groups of men that waited at a local country store for donated chainsaws so they could help their neighbors. There were the defiant messages people would leave on their businesses and destroyed homes (many of which were not Code of Conduct compliant).

??????????????????????????????? ???????????????????????????????

DSC01851

I hope these posts have given some perspective on what it was like for some of the inhabitants of the Gulf Coast. It was muddy, moldy, and hot but the people there weren’t beaten. They just needed a hand up.

There are 18 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. captainpower Member
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    previous posts in the series:

    • #1
  2. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    captainpower:previous posts in the series:

    Thanks Captain!  I was going to add the links but now I don’t have to  :)

    • #2
  3. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    I guess as I survey these pictures and read your account . . it occurs to me that even though we watched this unfold on the news . . there’s something about one man’s account – the  personal on-the-ground experience – that makes it more real.

    • #3
  4. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Trink:I guess as I survey these pictures and read your account . . it occurs to me that even though we watched this unfold on the news . . there’s something about one man’s account – the personal on-the-ground experience – that makes it more real.

    Good…that’s really what I am shooting for so thanks  :)

    • #4
  5. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    These stories of yours make me so thankful I have been blessed by not having to suffer this kind of devastation. Thank you for relating your experiences.

    • #5
  6. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Thanks for these stories. My dad’s former house on Lake Pontchartrain was destroyed. I’ve been back to my med school in NO a couple times since and the place is not the same. The good in humanity shined in the aftermath though just as the evil did. I like to remember the good.

    • #6
  7. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    There was a lot of goodness to be seen in the people who helped out in aftermath of the hurricane’s destruction.

    We had quite a few Katrina refugees make it to Cape Cod, where I am. They ended up liking it here.

    Thank you for these posts. And for your work in going there and helping.

    • #7
  8. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Thanks for the stories, and the service.

    Chi-com tents? I didn’t see that one coming!

    • #8
  9. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    Figures that the commies would get tents there before our own inept government.

    Why people think that the government actually exists to help people is beyond me!

    • #9
  10. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Frozen Chosen: Why people think that the government actually exists to help people is beyond me!

    Because we keep giving money to the government to help people, so they claim.

    • #10
  11. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Frozen Chosen:Figures that the commies would get tents there before our own inept government.

    Why people think that the government actually exists to help people is beyond me!

    Yeah man…I was actually laughing at people that were surprised by the government inefficiency.  I mean really…what do you expect??  They aren’t really meant to be “first responders” anyway in an emergency response.  That was just convenient to hang around the president’s neck.

    • #11
  12. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Aaron Miller:Thanks for the stories, and the service.

    Chi-com tents? I didn’t see that one coming!

    Believe me I didn’t see it coming either!  I don’t remember exactly now who delivered them (something to do with FEMA)  but I remember a bunch of paperwork I was supposed to fill out anytime one went out.  Yeah I’m sure I got around to that as far as everyone knows :)  Those heavy ass tents were lifesavers though and really big inside.

    • #12
  13. kelsurprise Member
    kelsurprise
    @kelsurprise

    There were the defiant messages people would leave on their businesses and destroyed homes (many of which were not Code of Conduct compliant).

    I managed to get in to New Orleans 45 days after the storm, and check on my sister’s place.   That was the first thing I saw there that made me smile.  Messages spray-painted everywhere – – on sides of businesses, and on the sea of chained-up and duct-taped refrigerators that were dumped all over the neutral ground in the Garden District.  Amazing.

    (I’m trying to find the pictures –  will certainly post some, if I do – worried I may have sent them all off to my sister and never reprinted.)

    And OMG –  – “the paperwork and writing on the tents was in Chinese, but we figured them out eventually” – – that cracked me up.  :)

    • #13
  14. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    kelsurprise:

    There were the defiant messages people would leave on their businesses and destroyed homes (many of which were not Code of Conduct compliant).

    I managed to get in to New Orleans 45 days after the storm, and check on my sister’s place. That was the first thing I saw there that made me smile. Messages spray-painted everywhere – – on sides of businesses, and on the sea of chained-up and duct-taped refrigerators that were dumped all over the neutral ground in the Garden District. Amazing.

    (I’m trying to find the pictures – will certainly post some, if I do – worried I may have sent them all off to my sister and never reprinted.)

    And OMG – – “the paperwork and writing on the tents was in Chinese, but we figured them out eventually” – – that cracked me up. :)

    I hope you can find the pictures!  It was hard to limit how many I put up with these posts.  I need to put more up off site and attach a link for those that are interested…

    • #14
  15. kelsurprise Member
    kelsurprise
    @kelsurprise

    Concretevol: I need to put more up off site and attach a link for those that are interested…

    That’s a great idea.   I’d love to see more of them.

    • #15
  16. Tedley Member
    Tedley
    @Tedley

    The support which Renee provided (ask what help people need, and help deliver it to them) just goes to show how simple actions can have a great impact.  Anyone looking to volunteer following a disaster can use her actions as an example of one of the many ways volunteers can provide critical assistance.

    Your story regarding the Chinese tents reminded me of one of the Navy emergency managers who used to work nearby.  He thought it prudent to stockpile things like tents and cots.  He’d pick them up when available from the nearby defense re-utilization management office (DRMO), and find a place to store them on-base.

    • #16
  17. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Here’s the final post, I promise!  Thanks for bearing with me trying to tell this story.

    Katrina Experiences, Part V:  Guns Guns Everywhere and Heading Home

    • #17
  18. Kay of MT Member
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    The whole Katrina Experience has been marvelous posts. Thank you for them.

    • #18

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.