Friday, June 30, 2006

Reflections on the Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort

It so true that in giving, we receive, for I feel as though I have received far more from this experience than what I gave while down in New Orleans. I am extremely grateful for that opportunity and hope to be a part of future trips down to that region for more service.

I can honestly say that I rarely thought about the problems facing so many of the victims of hurricane Katrina. Being nearly one year removed from when the storm struck and over 1000 miles away from the city of New Orleans, the whole problem was out of sight and out of mind. After being there for several days it became obvious to me the impact this storm had on so many people’s lives. These folks will never forget it. They suffer to this day from it. Their lives are forever changed and they deal with it on a daily basis.

If I didn’t know better, I would have thought that the storm had hit only a few weeks ago, whether it be from the people you talk to or the sights that you see. It is a complete disaster zone. Traffic patterns are still messed up from folks having been relocated to different parts of the city and the roads not being designed to handle the car volumes coming from these new locations. Power appears to be still out in some areas (eg, street lights are not working). Businesses are closed, entire city wards are as a ghost town with homes and buildings just waiting to be razed.

Thousands of homes are still in need of gutting before their reconstruction can take place. This year, Catholic Charities hopes to gut 1000 homes with the help of volunteers. This is where I found myself - part of a group of 15 men and women, young and old, who came down for 5 days to help however we could.

We managed to gut two homes. It took 15 people, 5 days to gut two homes, and there are thousands of homes in need of similar work. There were times while I was working that I felt as though this work we were doing was useless, like the homes we were working on should simply be leveled.

One afternoon, I got to meet a woman that owned one of the houses that we were working on. She thanked us and shared her story with us before we walked through her house, which was in the process of being gutted. She and her daughters walked ahead and cried as they remembered out loud things about the house that we did not know. Suddenly, this disaster zone that I callously thought should be leveled took on the character of a real home.

I came away from the whole experience realizing how blessed I have been in my life and how good I have it. How fortunate I am to have a good job and to have a home and a family. How I hoped that I would never forget these people or the suffering that I saw. I need to remember that there is suffering in the world and we are called to love one another and assist those in need as the Lord told us through the Corporal works of mercy.

It is difficult to put into words all the aspects of this experience. The labor was exhausting. The daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration were revitalizing. The bond forged with the people I met on this trip was special. There were times when I wanted to stop laboring but seeing other folks persevere, I was inspired to keep going. I really got a sense of fellowship with all the volunteers. So many folks of different ages and from so many different places, coming together to serve.

I have included two videos that document some of the experiences from New Orleans. One is more serious, the other, a collection fun moments that made the whole experience one that I hope I will never forget.


Serious Coverage:

Some Memorable Moments:


At Mon Jul 03, 11:02:00 AM 2006, Anonymous alsmith said...

With his "Some Memorable Moments," film maker Ty Roach continues his surrealistic exploration of Post-modern absurdism. Gone are the over the top imagery of his first effort. The essential emptiness and meaningless of life are conveyed through chaotic editing and effects. The dissolving edits and the occaisional fractured images are a fairly obvious reference to the anomie the pervades much of contemporary nihilism. The incongrous juxtaposition of misery and hope implicit in the church scenes marks Mr. Roach as a growing talent of unusual subtley.


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