So I just got back to Charleston after finishing our project in Mississippi. It was an experience that has changed my perspective on many aspects of my life. The destruction was so great and the loss of the communities was unfathomable, yet people are rising up together and rebuilding. What struck me the most was the sense of community that I witnessed. No matter what faith, or race (which before the storm meant a huge deal to the Gulf Coast) people banded together to help one another.
I was able to attend a conference on homelessness caused by the hurricanes. Two other teammates and I got to sit and listen to people’s stories on how they survived the storm. People who would never have spoken to each other are now brought together to fight to rebuild. It was incredibly hard to listen to everyone and realize that there is only so much that I can do to help. The suicide rate in the region is going up because there
At the homes I was working on, I became close with the home owners. One man, Billy, survived the storm by placing his 5 year old daughter and 5 month old daughter into coolers so that they would float and placed them in the attic. He then put his pregnant wife up there and went onto the roof with an axe so that he could chop his family out if the flood waters kept rising. He was blown off the roof and had to swim back…luckily they all survived. He had 7 feet of flooding in his 1 story house. I heard stories like this on a daily basis and saw the damage and destruction everyday on the way to work.
On each home there is a spray-painted grid that was put there 3 days after the storm. On one side of the grid there is the date inspected. Another is the inspection # and the bottom is the number killed. I always saw a zero in that place until one of the last days I was staring out the window and my eyes fell upon a 2 at the bottom of the grid. My whole team just stared, we thought we had become almost numb to the destruction until we saw that. It took us a while to realize how numb we had become until we got back to Charleston and saw standing buildings…then it really sunk in.
We finished up the last days in Biloxi and got one woman moved into her house, and got 4 others almost there—they will be able to move in in the next few weeks. I am quite the skilled carpenter if I do say so myself (not to toot my own horn). Joy and I are the “master trimmers” and we installed floor trim in all the houses (I learned to cope the corners to make them match etc…). I also learned how to install drywall, mud, and flooring. The home owners told us that not only did we help them with building their homes, we also helped restore hope that they are not the forgotten coast, and that the coast will be rebuilt.
I also got to experience Gulf Coast Culture and see many Mardi Gras celebrations. It was so amazing to see the people rise up from the destruction and celebrate as well as poke fun at Katrina (like throwing MREs from some of the floats along with the beads).
Since Americorps NCCC is getting cut (unless people like you help save it), 80% of our projects are going to be disaster relief. This means that I am going to Abbysville Louisiana next. This town was hit by both Katrina and Rita so I don’t know what to expect.
The last website I gave you was the wrong site. Please go to savenccc.org to help save this program. We are needed now more than ever.
I miss you and love you all!