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Hurricane Katrina Relief- Week 1
October 8, 2005 --- (40 days after the storm)

I finally got access to my email!  I have access to a computer most of the day, but Red Cross blocks yahoo  from their computers... oh well.  I'm holding up well.  My job is government liaison between the Red Cross and Jackson and Harrison Counties in Southern Mississippi.  Both counties were terribly affected by the storm.  The storm surge tidal wave wiped out the whole gulf coast... TV doesn't do it justice.  The destruction in indescribable.  The neighborhoods near the water are wiped clean, all that's left is foundations, Casino barges broke loose, came ashore and crushed hotels, the neighborhoods just inland are full of rubble, all the houses and businesses from the shore washed into their neighborhoods, knocking down their houses.  Semi's and cargo containers from the port washed as far as 7 miles with the force of steam trains crushing all in their path and strewing their contents across the neighborhoods.  My friend talked to one woman's whose home was full of frozen chickens that thawed and decayed...

Well that was my attempt to describe what it's like.  Inland from the storm surge damage, most buildings were damaged by the hurricane itself, some knocked down.  But lives are starting to rebuild here.  School is back in session, power water (not quite potable), and sewer have mostly returned.  Businesses are reopening despite the damage.  And VERY slowly debris is being picked up.  FEMA is delivering 400 travel trailers a day and giving them to families whose homes were destroyed.  The response is tremendous, but the need is overwhelming. 

I'm staying at a staff shelter on a SeaBee base.  There are 650+ of us in one room in a warehouse!  It's amazing to see. The food is catered by a group that
feeds CA firefighters, and it's great.  And we have hot private showers, so that's good.  The other volunteers are great!  And the people here are inspiring. 

I was frustrated at first by my job because I don't get to directly work with the people and help them.  I was hoping for a job where I could use my work gloves, or feed people.  But I'm starting to like my job more now.  I do get to do things that matter.  Basically I relay info back and forth between the Red Cross and the local government, and if government people have concerns I try to find the problem and fix it.  Like a council member from a small community was concerned that we were not serving them enough in terms of financial assistance, so i and another liaison pressed outreach to get into that community.  That was good.  And I'm getting a very broad picture of how the Red Cross operates in this region and where the weaknesses are.  And as other staff mention problems to me, I can pass the info up, so that's good too.  And I've gotten to visit a lot of the shelters and kitchens, and financial centers in my counties to see how things are going. 

I found an Episcopal church in Pass Christian that was destroyed.  It was in one of the rubble piled neighborhoods.  But they have a tent set up and are still holding services.  They managed to find their "the Episcopal Church Welcomes You" sign in the rubble and have it propped up against their tent.  I'm going to try to join them for church tomorrow.  By all accounts ERD is doing a great job.  Their headquarters are in one of my counties, and I hope to stop by sometime soon.  So far my advice for helping is: send money, don't send clothes.  Things change here all the time... I'll let you know. 
Love and Peace,
Robin
Red Cross Staff Shelter- Gulfport Mississippi
The view from my cot
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