07 September 2005 by Published in: current events 1 comment

There is much good news today. Children are going to school in new places, which are taking them in with open arms. Many companies are continuing to pay their employees : Harrah’s will pay (and cover healthcare) for 7500 workers from its three ravaged casinos for 90 days (I’ve never felt so good about the gambling industry in all my life), even McDonald’s is covering two weeks, and though Wal-Mart is only giving their employees three days pay which is shameful, any pay is better than no pay. Some people from the suburbs around New Orleans were allowed to take a look at their homes and try to salvage mementos a couple of days ago. The New Orleans airport, the last place that held sizable numbers of people in need of evacuation (mostly critically ill people) has been basically emptied. Search and rescue teams, both official and self-appointed, are still bringing people back. They’re doing house to house searches as well, and getting the grisly work of marking houses with corpses. The New Orleans zoo suffered the death of few animals (two river otters and some watefowl). They had an alligator wander off as well, but they think it’ll come back. The aquarium is another story, they’re stating the loss of at least one third of their fish, though it seems their magnificent structure on the riverwalk is architecturally sound. Tipitina’s (where I’ve seen countless shows) is in good shape, and Preservation Hall (where I went once, as a child) seems to be mostly unscathed as well. The French quarter seems to have weathered the storm and will still be there for tourists in times to come. Already natives are talking about preparing for Mardi Gras and JazzFest, showing their indomitable spirit and hardcore dedication to big parties. The Army Corps of Engineers (who to my mind, along with the Coast Guard and local policemen, firefighters and medical workers who didn’t desert their posts are the only people who reacted quickly and to noticeable good effect in this debacle) has completed the herculean task of levee repair and started pumping out the city. Only 5 of the 148 pumps around the city are currently working, but this is a beginning. [I apologize for the lack of links in the preceding paragraph. It’s somewhat sloppy of me, but this is all current news, readily available. Use news.google.com on your own, for once. The rest of my post is time sensitive and I just haven’t got the time to be thorough right now.]

On a personal note, I’ve reconsidered setting out our spare room through Hurricane Housing, because it looks like we may be able to help house displaced persons through our church. I browsed my area code at Hurricane Housing and can see that people in St. Louis are extending open arms, which greatly pleases me. As a transplanted southerner, let me assure you that St. Louis is a great place to live! We’ve also applied to try and foster a displaced person’s pet, since most shelters don’t allow people to keep their pets with them. Can you imagine having survived, having come this far, having managed to get your pet out with you and then being told you have to give him up? Our check to my local chapter of the Red Cross went in the mail. They’re feeding 700,000 people a day right now, they need the money. We’ll also be donating through our church (which has so far raised 2,000 dollars in aid). If, for whatever reason, the Red Cross is not an agency you feel you can donate to, let me offer you the opportunity to donate to aid Katrina’s victims through UMCOR. If you mark your check for the proper advance number (for Katrina it’s Advance #982523 — mail your check to UMCOR PO Box 9068 New York, NY 10087-9068) it will be spent by UMCOR for victims of Katrina to the last cent, and for nothing else. Overhead for UMCOR is paid by the church, so literally EVERY dollar will be spent as aid. If you’re local and looking for opportunities to help, my church is making up health kits to send to hurricane victims. There’s an eighteen wheeler truck that will be leaving the state Friday, so these have to be made up today, or by tomorrow at 9 AM latest and dropped off to my church (I’ll gladly email directions or come get the kits from you). They also need diapers and blankets (new is best, but freshly laundered will do if they are in good shape). The distribution center is fortuitously very near New Orleans. Normally used for international aid relief, supplies at the distribution center have been depleted to help disaster stricken people on our own soil this time around.

Here’s what goes in the health kits:

  • one hand towel
  • one washcloth
  • one comb
  • one metal nail file or nail clipper
  • one bar of soap (bath size)
  • one toothbrush
  • one tube of toothpaste (4-7 ounces)
  • six band-aids

Seal all items up in a gallon plastic bag with a zipper closure.

Additionally, I am making up three boxes (one for a child Sophia’s size, one for someone my size, one for someone Kurt’s size) of clothing and toiletries for one of the 2,000 refugees who are arriving to the St. Louis area beginning yesterday.

If you’re a local and would like to do the same, here are the instructions on what to put in a box and where to send it, snagged (and tidied, slightly) from the email I received on the subject:

Here we go with “Adopt A Person!” If you would like to join us, would you kindly fill a box of clothes you think a person (your size) would need. They can be used, clean, and ready to wear. New stuff is good, and yet one idea is to generously share what we already have with others who have nothing. Shoes are important, socks, underwear, night-clothes, casuals and work clothes. Add other stuff to wear too that you’re thrilled to give another. Remember, they now have nothing, so we’re going to give them a good start at rebuilding. Fall and winter are coming.

If you’re willing, please put in a modest toiletry bag of new stuff too: toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, razor, hair brush, comb, deodorant., sanitary pads, lipstick, fun stuff you’d like to receive if everything you owned got washed away (by the horrors of Katrina). If you’re filling a box for a man, please fill it with guy stuff that they’d need (you know—golf balls, Rams outfits, etc. :-) Just kidding. Dark socks, underwear, belts, shave cream, slacks, khakis, jeans, shirts, p.j.’s, nice clothes to go to work in, casual, sweaters, jackets, etc., or anything you’re willing to equip the person with that you’re adopting. Put in after- shave, shave cream, soap, floss, tooth paste and brush, and razors and blades. Just imagine yourself being in this man’s (or woman or child’s) shoes, and pack from your heart. It will be a wonderful box!

You can adopt more than one person, of course. Just pack a separate box for each and label it accordingly (woman, girl, man, boy, baby, and size.

Since we want to touch the hearts of these individuals, as well as clothe them, we’d encourage you to put in your picture, your address, and a note letting them know they are not alone. A word of comfort and encouragement might be splendid! You may never hear back from them, or you may. If you’d rather remain anonymous, that’s fine too.

On the outside of the box, please mark if it’s for a WOMAN, size _____, a MAN, size____, or a GIRL, size ______, BOY, size_________. Babies too, and sizes. Please address your box: “My Adopted Person from the Gulf Hurricane” directly to The St. Patrick Center, 800 North Tucker, St. Louis, MO 63101.

Thanks for reading, and for considering helping out. If you do make up a box, let me just reiterate that these people will NOT be prepared for how cold it will be here in the next few weeks. I had the benefit of everything in my wardrobe and I was still struggling to dress appropriately and to keep warm last winter. I apologize if this post is a bit spammy. These are concrete ways that you can use your own two hands and stuff you probably already have in your house to help. It seems like a lot of people are looking for ways to help. I haven’t said the last thing I will say about Katrina, but I feel that my recriminations can wait a bit longer while we take the time to offer comfort and aid.

It’s not all good news, of course. Many people are separated from their families, and right now there seems to be no good, systematic way for parents and their offspring to find one another and be reunited. Putting people on buses and planes and not telling them where they’re going seems to be part of the problem here. The dangerous sludge that still covers large parts of New Orleans is likely going to make the people staying behind (an estimated 10,000 who weathered everything reasonably well and seem to think the worst is over) very, very sick. The gasoline and other chemicals floating in that fetid water is making tinderhouses out of many buildings, and fires are burning, with no water pressure to put them out. Firefighters are resorting to dumping water on fires from helicopters. No, all is not well, nor anything near it, but progress is discernible.


Wed 07th Sep 2005 at 9:14 pm

Our company sent out an email stating that they are going to cover all daily expenses and accomodation costs for employees from the New Orleans office and their immediate family members that have been displaced. I thought that was a pretty cool thing to do.

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