Biloxi, MS - Day Three

Karol Collymore

Part one of day three: Today we officially sealed in the mold! I'm also officially no longer a teenager because I could barely make it down the house stairs after we finished today. The "Kil" is thick and white and likely poisonous, but went went in like a band of troopers and got it done. Lawrence, is in the first picture. He really wants out of his FEMA trailer and because of our group, he can finish rebuilding. We are so very tired but still ready to work and see what tomorrow brings. We leave in about ten minutes to New Orleans to do some work there with Habitat for Humanity.

Part two, day three: We finally got into New Orleans from Biloxi and it's hot, hotter than I was prepared for. The humidity sort of makes me want to throw up, but it's so hot I don't want to eat. I'm tired and a little depressed by the scene; more depressed because my bathroom fears have kicked up in my state of mental weakness. The city of New Orleans seems worse than Biloxi; if only because more of the city seems affected as you drive through. Shops are shuttered, homes and churches and blown over and it seems recent even though it was two years ago.

Some of our group of 16 is out on Bourbon Street to see Halloween, the other half home at our residence for the rest of the week. I tried to hang but emotions have bowled me over. It's hard to imagine, but young people are running the show to help these two cities get up and running. The projects for tomorrow are fixing two homes, working at the food bank, visiting AIDS patients, and re-shelving a library. Our team leads are younger than the volunteers in our group and they are remarkable. I can't stop thinking that a bunch of twenty somethings have been here for two years trying to help peoples' lives and multiple governments, insurance companies and their ilk can't make this happen any faster? The next nagging thought: would a democrat in office at the White House be any better? Our democratic congress seems to be dragging their feet to get anything done. I don't mean votes, I mean making some sort of stink about the state of the way we treat our fellow citizens. It was sickening before I got here and it's worse now. I sometimes wonder if there is a party for us to count on. I'm not sure if the people in the Gulf Coast region know either.

Some in our group talk about the great experience this is, how effective training it is in case something bad hits Oregon. I agree, these folks would be first in line to volunteer. But what is our state and federal government prepared to do? It seems it would be easier to allow a volunteer machine like Hands On Network to come in than really address what would happen. It looks like California has it figured out. We can all say what we will about response times versus two years ago during Katrina, but it still took George Bush 4 days to get on a plane to see what was going on with that fire. I believe Oregon would have our ducks in a row (get it?) and I hope other states will do the same. We can't seem to wait on Washington anymore.

  • Mike (unverified)

    I went to the Gulf Coast last year (Feb. '06). I was struck by the difference between the ways Katrina hit the region. Mississippi looked like it had been bombed. It looked like Fallujah all along the coast and there was garbage everywhere. I would have been very reluctant to go into the water at the beach - who knows what was swept into the Gulf? And there were trees down all over the place. I met a contractor who was up from Florida clearing trees and he said he thought they had 5 years worth of work.

    New Orleans actually appeared reasonably intact except for the fact that much of the city was a ghost town. St. Bernard Parish and the lower 9th ward suffered the most obvious damage but elsewhere, upon closer inspection, you notice houses moved off of their foundations, more downed trees, uninhabitable homes, etc. I was expecting it to be bad, but the scale was staggering and I only went from New Orleans to Biloxi, which I think is at least 100 miles, which would be like what? Driving from Portland to Corvallis and seeing destruction the entire time. I didn't get into Mobile or west (or south) of NOLA, which is probably roughly equivalent to Portland to Eugene.

    I agree we can't wait on Washington. But we do pay for some sort of response and as a taxpayer, I expect DHS to competently rise to the occasion when disasters occur. FWIW, I think we need to rebuild America and stop wasting our money on rudderless wars/occupations.

  • (Show?)

    Mike you are right; the drive from Biloxi to NOLA on HWY 90 is crazy. Open foundations everywhere and seems hopeless that many will rebuild. We were cynically saying that MS is saving that land for casinos anyway. There are some measures on this year's ballots for tribes to partner with the state to develop more of them.

    Locals talk about the casino revenue being bogged up and not really trickling down to those that need it. I haven't researched it, but I plan to - once I get some sleep!

  • mconley (unverified)

    Hang in there, Karol!! New Orleans is a tough town even in the best of times, and you're seeing it at its worst. The politics down there makes it even tougher. A friend of mine in NOLA said (the week after the storm) that he hoped the Feds would get their act together fast so that all the rebuilding money didn't disappear in the local swamp of corruption. Unfortunately, the swamp and federal problems took their toll - and the local politics is highly Dem. Very disappointing.

    Get to the Napoleon House. It will make you feel better. And Rock 'n Bowl. If the Iguanas are playing anywhere, go see them. You've got to give yourself some fun while working that hard.

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