mamculuna: (Default)
( Sep. 13th, 2005 08:00 pm)
In all the dark and ugly mess that’s followed Katrina, there’s one place that’s done a really good job of responding: my own city. We’ve put together a really fine reception and relief center for at least 1700 evacuees, and for the last week it’s been my privilege to work there. I’m pretty sure that one person took on the task of organizing it as a full-time job, and he created a model of what relief should be. We have in one location representatives not only from FEMA and Red Cross but also all other possible resources these folks could use—-temporary housing in hotels (not mass shelters), food stamps, a kitchen, all kinds of medical help on site and referrals for more specialized stuff including taxis to take the patients to other offices, Medicaid, Social Security, a locally-staffed legal project to locate family members, clothes, books, toys, etc., etc. I'm proud of my city--no, for once, I'm in love with my city.

I’ve worked for the last week as a shepherd (due to my lack of any real skills). I ( and many like me) greet people, find out if they need showers, food, clothes, immediate medical attention, and then get them registered with Red Cross and FEMA, and then find out what else they need and go with them to the various offices. In practice, I’m getting them in one line, then running ahead to scout out the next place they need to go, and while we wait, talking with them about their situation and their experiences. It’s been humbling to know what people can survive, and also to see their strength and endurance.

In your practice and prayers, think of these survivors and all the others like them:

Vanessa: Just in the recovery from addiction, she spent days (she doesn’t know how many) on a rooftop. She can’t sleep because of the things she sees when she closes her eyes. She spent two weeks without her diabetes medication and can’t eat much, either. She dumped her boyfriend when he started knocking her around in their motel room—then he tried to tell Red Cross he hadn’t gotten a share of the benefits (but her receipts proved him wrong)

Kayla: She’s five years old, and her mother and grandmother have lost everything, even the drugs they need, but Kayla has bright merry brown eyes and can make a game of waiting in the longest lines, skipping and hopping up and down the hall with volunteers

Laurie: Her son committed suicide after staying in the hurricane alone when his fiance’s family decided they didn’t have room to take him when they evacuated, but Laurie’s still so grateful for the little we can do to bring his body home.

Raven: She’s elegantly dressed, young, fit, made-up, an attorney, and can’t understand why she can’t by pass the lines and just collect her check, or better yet, get electronic deposit. But her pain is as real as everybody else’s.

Lucien: He’s been through the whole process, and now he wants to volunteer to work with the newcomers.

Victory: She’s 85 and wants to go back to her rest home, even though seven bodies were found there already. Her granddaughter’s not so happy with having her on an indefinite visit. Grace, her daughter, an artist, lost paintings, paints, brushes, computers, and the rest of her house--but she's so happy when I find a nice shirt and pants set for her mother. And their names tell the whole story: Victory and Grace.

And all the beautiful faces and voices of New Orleans, the coal black skin and white hair, the pirate-looking guys with beards and ponytails, the elegant women with luscious accents.

May it rise again.


mamculuna: (Default)


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