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Published: October 18th 2005
(Near Atlanta, GA)
Here are our landmarks: increased traffic, lit-up billboards, the passing time. The things I carry: sleeping bag, a Spanish play, a memoir, wallet, pillow, sweatshirt, old jeans just bought at the Salvation Army store, t-shirts, gloves, thick rubber boots, towel, flip-flops, bathing necessities. The people I'm with: Rachel (my roommate), Rose (from Ireland), Tamara (from Cocktails, my a cappella group), Tom (my Methodist minister and a campus chaplain), and 108 (or so) other USC students neatly packed into two charter buses.
We're going to Biloxi, Mississippi. Hurricane Katrina hit weeks ago, tearing Biloxi to pieces, overrunning New Orleans (and much of the Gulf Coast) with mud, muck, and water.
A madhouse. We saw the images on CNN, Fox News, Time magazine, internet sites. Looting. Dying. People stranded on houses. Stuck in the Superdome. Rows and rows of cots.
Angry voices. Poor. But it affected everyone. Convicts evacuated-- where to?-- elderly left in nursing homes, drowned, dead. How? Why?
Captain Frizzell of the Salvation Army (we're going through them on this Biloxi relief trip) showed us pictures of Biloxi before we left. Houses smashed, restaurants disappeared, a casino crammed on top of a hotel (the casino had been floating).
Thousands of evacuees in Columbia. They came pouring in on planes, not knowing where they were ending up until minutes before they landed and ended up at the Naval Reserve Center adjoining USC's campus. I heard stories-- tragedies and triumphs: a woman left in her attic with her mother for days, the mother dies days before they are rescued. An eighty-year-old (or so) father meets his 50-some-year-old son in the halls of the Reserve Center, having no idea the other was there. A reunion.
And now it's dark. A twelve-hour bus ride. What's ahead? I'm excited, and steeling myself for heat and hard work.
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