This was my work group for the few days we were in Biloxi. This shot is from when we're done with our house. The piles of debris are in front, and the house in the background.
It seems like forever has passed since Biloxi, but it’s only been a week or so. It was such an incredible experience.
Our last day there was perhaps the most interesting, though I got less of a feel for the whole situation. We got up at the usual bright and early time and were going by 8AM. My group helped tear out the insides of a house. The house was rented, but the homeowner said he/she didn’t need us to keep anything. We kept what we could salvage, anyway.
We were just a few blocks from the Salvation Army camp. On the way (we walked), we passed a Carolina Compassion group, a relief site with people just rummaging through boxes of clothes and goods, a similar site in front of the Dollar Stare, people cheering us on from a nearby screened-in porch, cars whirring past, other houses with piles in front of them, a man hosing down the road. Another riding a bike.
We were at the house. Next door, across the street, actually, and caddy corner, tree clearers showed up. Three men and a number of tools. It was hot out. We wore our thick rubber boots
The house we worked on our last day in Biloxi.
and work gloves. We drank bottles and bottles of water. Now and again, Salvation Army personnel came by to drop of the refreshing stuff. We wore dust masks. Used shovels and a crow bar. Maybe other tools.
These are the things we found in the house:
--three layers of linoleum (which we rolled and dragged to the street)
--an old purse (which I dug through for important papers). I found the following: a birth certificate, deed, Medicaid card, insurance card, family photos, business cards, receipts, pay stubs, money wiring slips, some pennies, lipstick, other things.
--trophies (baseball, other)
--a Valentine’s Day card, which was giant-sized with a handwritten message
--a letter from a loved one about a birthday gift
--sandals that were salvageable
--a stack of dishes
--all the interior—dry wall, wallpaper, etc., was all torn down and taken out
--clothes—piles and piles
--more (I was taking care of the papers and yard)
There was really just so much that was thrown away, I think I blocked out what was in those huge piles. Blankets, maybe. TV. It was really incomprehensible. There was so much ruined.
Tearing up the inside of the house. We took down dry wall, rotted wood, wallpaper, linoleum-- everything. It was basically just four walls, a floor, and a roof when we were done.
took us until 11:30 or so to be completely done. I wish I could write more of it. The mounds and mounds of drywall piles. The sweeping and scooping and bagging. Teamwork.
And all I wanted to do was rebuild, then and there, though I knew tearing down was first important, too. But maybe that’s why I couldn’t write this on the way home, though I meant to—perhaps it was too much, too much to think about or fret about or comprehend.
And then I think of the tsunami and recent earthquake in Pakistan and somehow know it will never end and we will never do enough. I will never do enough. Three days in Biloxi, and it’s not better yet. Better than it was, perhaps, but still deeply in need.
Lunch time. Dirtiest I’d probably been. Mold and mildew from flooded floors, walls, ground. Drywall residue on gloves, pants, shirts, boots. Sweaty socks, dusty cap.
Throw the mask away, keep the clothes (for when I go back). Get in line for food with Rachel. The Baptists in yellow shirts again. An Asian family behind me. A Baptist man with a white beard guides the line and shows Tom and I his ID that says he’s Santa Claus. I laugh and am glad I am laughing because the work was hard and I still haven’t figured it all out yet and don’t want to leave.
Lunch food: hamburger, salad, chocolate cookies, chips, tea, and water. The food tastes the best yet—I’ve worked hardest yet.
I talk with people. A woman sitting near us under a tent. Lost basically everything and is living with family now. Grandson is playing football on the field. There is a “carnival” under the big tent. She says she is grateful to God.
A man under the tent, later. Mother’s house and his house close by. Mother’s house less damaged. Living in Mobile, Alabama, now. Hopes to get mother’s house fixed first so he can work on his own house more easily. Seems tired, but anxious to rebuild.
Other tired faces, jumbled around.
We leave at approximately 2:30 that afternoon. Drive by the coast, see more damage, piles of rubble where buildings once were.
They asked the night before if this changed any future plans. It was part of the processing—small group meetings about our experiences. I wanted to say something (Rachel actually said I should) but didn’t. It’s made me realize, though, that I could do this work for forever, I think. And maybe I have the stamina. And maybe I’d like to join the Salvation Army.
But I don’t know.
12-hour bus ride. Dinner at Moe’s. Some grab coffee at Starbucks after. I decide against it for monetary reasons and because I don’t want to be up all night.
Two movies: Finding Neverland and Pirates of the Caribbean. Sitting by Rachel again. By the window so I sleep some. And write. Behind us we have “99 bottles of beer on the wall...” and “This is the song that never ends...” I eat Oreos and Milky Ways and drink Gatorade. I don’t always know what to think.
Home at 3:00AM. Bed by 3:30. I appreciate the bed, but part of me misses the feel of rough grass and knowing I’ll wake up in the morning to a purpose so worthwhile...
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