My "Katrina" Blogs

 

These posts were previously submitted to the Dear Jane forum and are now compiled on this page.

 

Day One

I transferred back to patrol yesterday. Working 4 to midnight. Got a call at 10 saying come in at 12 for 4 hours OT. I was at Will Rogers all days with evacuees coming in. They were tired, scared and just at ropes end. So grateful to be in a dry safe place. We had to search them and I was down in the shower area for about 8 hours to make the women feel safe. They had a lot of horror stories.

They were convinced that the men had made a hole in the wall to look at them. I had to assure them I'd been there all day and if anyone had chiseled a hole through the tile I would have heard. That was the LEAST of the worries.

Those people have been to hell and back. Everyone was so grateful that they were there and that we were so nice and that they were clean, fed and had a mattress of their own.
 

When the first bus got there, there was a bus with a family, 3 adults, young, and 5 kids, under 6. The kids had grabbed 4-5 bottles of the water outside that were there for people to pick up and were trying to carry their plastic bags with some MRI's they had been given earlier and this water. The 3 yr old boy dropped his water as he came up and I was trying to wave the wand over him and mom was carrying a baby and bags etc.

She was tired and said, 'What do you have all that for?' I just chatted to him as I picked up his water because I knew this child had probably had days with no water and needed the security of water, 'I bet you had a hard week huh? And no water sometime huh? Its ok. I'll put this in your bag, there is lots of water inside and lots of snacks too."

I just kept chatting and got them through. All those kids just needed security and mom just was tired and I think a little embarrassed to see the kids had snagged so much water but they were just little kids who were afraid that they would run out of water again. And if having 3 bottles of water makes a 3 year old feel secure. Well that is ok. I will be there every day this week for 4 hours every day before my shift.
Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
74, 2, 1, 1513
DJ Block Swaps
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Day Two

I was only in the shelter for four hours today, not twelve.

I worked my regular patrol shift afterwards.
What a change twenty four hours makes. A hot bath, three hot meals and feeling safe and secure has done wonders for these people.


The lady I had to reassure about the showers being safe came up and told me she had slept for the first time in a week. She said she was staying here and enrolling her kids in school on Tuesday. They were playing with a ball and her teenage son was preening in an American flag tee shirt and Tommy Hillfinger American Flag designer pressed shirt.
The construction worker and his wife who had struggled in hugged me and asked where the ‘best’ school was for their 9 year old daughter.

He had gone out and bought a newspaper for the want ads.
 

The elderly lady who I had to call firefighters to carry her wheelchair down narrow stairs so she could shower smiled, waved and asked if I had slept well.
Several people hugged me and said how FRIENDLY Texans were.

 

Why were Texas police so friendly? Why was everyone so nice to them? How blessed they were and how glad they were just to be alive.


Then there were the other stories. The father and his neighbor, whose children, a 9 year old girl and two teenage boys had been pushed ahead to be evacuated first with the ‘women and children’ . They know the kids were put on a bus. But no one know what bus. Or where the bus is. I spent awhile trying to reassure them that the kids were somewhere safe, in a shelter like this one, and someone was watching over them. I sure hope so….
And the 60ish man who came up to me and got all teary when he said his truck was under water and he still had 3 payments left and all his stuff was in that truck… He was on the edge. I found a Chaplin for him they talked for a long time.
We are expecting more tomorrow…


Jo
 

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
74, 2, 1, 1513
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Day Two

Thanks for all your good wishes. I am pretty sure that they have most of what they need, EXCEPT black hair care products. That is the one thing I have not seen and that is needed IF you are in the area of any shelters you know are getting evacuees please keep this in mind ok? Regular shampoo is appreciated, but its not the right kind.


I plead ignorance here, I really don’t know much about black hair care and maybe some one who does can list some brands that would help? I just know that there was NONE and that while some of these people do have cash to purchase things, they could use it for stuff other than shampoo if we could provide that for them…..
Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
74, 2, 1, 1513
DJ Block Swaps
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Day

Three & Four

Well yesterday I was at Will Rogers 4 hours. I was in the Showers for the first two.

One of the guys come out and said, ‘Hey you got a garbage bag? It is really a mess in here.” I asked if anyone was in there and he said no. So I went in. It was. I don’t know when it had last been cleaned. The guy apologized and said the least he could do after all we had done was clean it up. So there he was, picking up floodwater stained clothing, wet towels and moping floors.

I got a janitor there to finish and he worked right along with him to finish the job.
An 80ish lady was there volunteering, washing a mound of towels with one washer and a broken down dryer. She entertained me with stories of the 1949 flood of Fort Worth and the hardships she endured as a young girl, not knowing they were hardships, because they were normal for everyone.

Her son is one of the Chaplains who has been here since Saturday.


My last two hours were at the front door. We now have the facility more secure than ever. All guests have blue wrist bands. All volunteers have nametags. No one else comes in or out. Amazing amounts of new shoes, African American Hair Care Products (Thanks all who responded to my plea esp. whoever was in the van yesterday and dropped of the sally’s bag), personal care products, etc have funneled in. They are turning away volunteers as they now outnumber guests. It is hard to tell guests from volunteers. That is a good thing.
The guy who can't find his 9 year old daughter still does not know where she is. But I find out that she is with her Grandmother, they were together. This makes me feel a LOT better. I have really worried about this little girl. The two teenage boys are in a apt. in Houston, with a family and their mom and dad are trying to make contact with them.
I am really becoming fond of one lady who has 3-4 little kids, the one whose son was wearing the American flag shirt. I check on her again, her heels bother her a lot, and a lady came in and asked for all her kids sizes.

She thinks that maybe the lady is going to buy them all clothing.


A young couple asks me where the elderly and single women are sleeping.

They want to take someone home to sleep in their spare room.


A volunteer has ‘New Orleans’ on his name tag. He tells me he is staying with a relative. He was at home during Katrina. He rented a 6th floor hotel room downtown New Orleans with his partner, a neighbor who had surgery recently with open unhealed wounds, and another friend who is in a wheelchair. The hurricane does not do too much damage and they think they can go home. Then the flooding comes.

 

In his words… The young black males started going wild and rioting and shooting. We barricaded ourselves in our room. On Wed. I floated my friend in the wheelchair, it kind of floated, out and a rescue boat took her. My partner did not want me to go but I wanted to see if our house was OK so on Wednesday, I barricaded them into the room and I swam/walked in water up to my neck a mile and a half to my house, it was 8 feet under water…..

 

I was unclear here but somehow he met up with his brother and they were rescued by a helicopter and evacuated to Dallas. They are staying with a relative and he is volunteering to help other evacuees now. He does not know if his partner or the friend are dead or alive.
I go to work and work till midnight. Then I drop back by.

 

The blind elderly gentleman is sitting on the front rail a young 20 something evacuee is in front of him. I say ‘ I know you don’t know me, but you have heard my voice, I am Officer Spindle, how are you tonight?”
The young man says ‘We are just fine now we have been looking for him EVERYWHERE”. He is not an evacuee, the man's son, there to pick him up.
 

Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
74, 2, 1, 1513
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Day Four

Today I am off. I cannot stay away. I am worried about the lady and her heels. The guy and his 9 year old. The lady and her teen age boys. I get a few things and drop by. Her heels are better. The boy in the American flag shirt is 24 and has a child. He is not related to the lady with the hurt heels at all. He has located his mom. She is in Alabama. She is ok, he does not know where his baby and the baby’s momma are.


The teenage boys have talked to mom and dad.

They are arranging for them to get a bus to bring them here.


The Dad has located his mom and his 9 year old. They have not figured out how to get them here yet, but are working on it.


On the first night there was a lady and her husband, who could just not stand the stench of themselves, the lake, etc. and really wanted a shower, who begged other guests to please get in line for a shower. Today told me they were waiting for a ride to the FW JRB Base, that’s the old Carswell AFB for those of you who remember. I asked if they were military. She said her 1st deceased husband was military. I asked if she had checked with the Navy Relief Society, they were providing relief to military family’s who were displaced by Katrina.

 

“I never even thought of that!”

Her first stop on the base was going to be the Relief Society building.

Hopefully they can help them get a place.


Rob, my husband, works for the Health Dept. They started inspections Saturday. But big time inspections today. Everyday. Threw out a lot of out of temp food. We do not want anyone to get sick. And you can bet the showers will not get dirty again.
I’m off tomorrow. No Posts.
Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
74, 2, 1, 1513
DJ Block Swaps
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  Ok, my husband, the Health inspector just advised me that what he sees as needed at the shelters after inspecting them for two days are:

Disposable changing pads for the baby changing areas.
Bleach
Spray bottles for the bleach\water solution
Bottles of hand sanitizer

He also said that the shelters here in Ft Worth are getting donations of small items of food, but they need industrial sizes. They are giving the small sizes to the food banks. I guess that if you have the small sizes it would be better to donate those to food banks, or the churches who regularly provide to your local families who are in need. (remember they are still out there also). Those small sizes would also help individual evacuees set up housekeeping, but are no real use to a shelter trying to make mass meals for 500 people…..
Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
74, 2, 1, 1513
DJ Block Swaps
Blocks 248 Pieces 1701

 
Day Five

Rob was at the shelter today. I directed him by phone and he checked on the guy in the American flag shirt. His name is George. I’m bad, I never have asked any names, I just know faces. Isn’t that funny? They are faces and stories to me, people to worry about, but not names. When I walk in I start searching for the faces, and if they are not there, its good news. That means that family has found them and the story had a happy ending.


While he was on the phone he said ‘OH GOD. I got to go.’

 

When he called back I asked what happened and he said that when he walked up to the command post everyone was crying. He thought it was bad. But when he asked they said No, not bad, good. There was a guy on the phone, he just found his daughter. She was in NY. When he herd her voice he started crying, and that made everyone cry.
He said the barber was there, I know yesterday that they were doing pedicures and manicures for everyone. And some of the guys were showing off their new haircuts the day before.


Suitcases are very popular. Plastic grocery bags are not the easiest way to carry personal possessions. Rob says that one of the ladies asked him to help unload suitcases because ‘I almost got mobbed yesterday when I brought in a load of suitcases’. Rob said the big ones only lasted a few seconds, but it was hardly a mob scene, LOL.


Rob says that they are serving hot meals to everyone, today was spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna.

I know that they have had hot meals from the first night when the first bus arrived, that was good ol’ TX barbeque.

Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
74, 2, 1, 1513
DJ Block Swaps
Blocks 248 Pieces 1701
 

Day Six

I was at the shelter from 11 to 330 and dropped back in at around 1130 pm.


The shelter does not look the same. Red curtains are up blocking all view of the sleeping areas from public view.


Blue paper arm bands are being exchanged for lime green rubber ones, and then for real photo ID cards hung around residents necks in less than 3 hours time.


The lady and gentleman who so desperately wanted a shower the first nights - names are Caroline and John. Navy Relief told them that they can get them a house/apt on base. As soon as they get all their FIMA and other stuff settled at the shelter they are going to contact the base and arrange that. For now the shelter is more convenient, despite the lack of privacy, because all the emergency response agency’s are located here.


The Marine Corps Band came in to perform today. That is not so unusual until you know that this is the Marine Corps Band from Naval Air Station New Orleans. They are evacuees also. They were performing in TN when the evacuation order was given. Their families had to evacuate without them. They all made it to Jacksonville where they stayed for 5 days before being military air lifted to Fort Worth.
Now they are standing in our shelter playing ‘When the Saints Come Marching In’ to other evacuees. Most people in the room have no idea of the irony.


I run into the volunteer who is a evacuee himself. This is a pleasant surprise. I did not think I would ever know the end to this story! His partner and friend made it out of the hotel. His partner is in Houston. When I ask where the friend is he flippantly replies ‘ He’s probably all the way to the Bahamas by now!’ He tells me that his partner is sending him money, because, ‘All my money is in my safe in New Orleans and when I got back to the house I couldn’t remember the combination.’ This makes me realize that if something happened here I would be in the same ‘boat’ because I can never remember our combination either. We laugh about this…..


George still has not located his baby son and his son's mother. I ask if he has listed them on the computer. ‘Well, the son…’ ‘He is just a baby, put her name on the computer, her mothers, any name you know, your chances will be better of locating them…’.

George heads for the computers….


The contractor who was job searching the very first day finds me. His wife has contracted a viral infection and is in the hospital. All their grand plans for house finding, job hunting are on hold. But their daughter is in school and doing well. This is a disappointment. This family had the most drive of any I had seen.

They even said ‘We are going to add a son to our family after this.’ on Sunday.


I spend the last 3 hours of my shift in the showers again. There is one washer and one broken down dryer. Seven people are lined up with their laundry waiting for the washer and dryer. I tell them where a laundry mat is, about 1 ½- 2 miles off. They do not have cash to use it. They will wait. It takes an hour for a load to dry in the dryer.


I sit and stitch a Jane block.
Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
74, 2, 1, 1513
DJ Block Swaps
Blocks 248 Pieces 1701

 

Email From My Daughter

We have 500 evacuees staying in Denton at Camp Copus (which is 15 from my house).  I have not had the chance to go down and volunteer to help with whatever they need because everyone in Denton has signed up and it will be at least 3 weeks before they need any more volunteers.  My heart swelled at this.  I am so proud of my fellow Dentonites and how we are stepping up to provide food, cloths, and money so that we can help our fellow Americans. 

 

On September 17, my bible study is planning on having a car wash and bake sale with all proceedings going to help Katrina evacuees.  We are not sure which organization needs the money more (Red Cross, Blue Angles, etc...) so I am researching this right now.  Do you have any suggestions on what organization would be good to donate the money to?  Also, if you know anyone in the area, tell them to stop by.  Our car wash will be on University and Carol at the AutoZone.

 

We are also planning on having a church wide garage sale

and bake sale to raise more money for the Katrina evacuees. 

 

It looks like I will not be able to actually go down to Biloxi Mississippi to help rebuild, so this is my way of doing my part. I also plan to have a follow up car wash and bake sale in the spring since people will still be needing help to get back on their feet.

 

I also plan and going down to donate blood in October (most people rushed out immediately to donate blood and I want to wait a month or two when the supplies are low or people are not coming in as much).

 

My job, as you know, is to provide cable, DSL, and phone to people.  Over the last 4 days I have had numerous people call in in and say "I came from New Orleans and now have a apartment.  I need to set up service."  Every time I hear this I want to cry.  I wish that we had a discount so that we could help these people out, but we don't.  So instead, I don't charge them the installation fee (which could be anywhere from $30 to $45 depending on what services they order).  I figure that this small gesture helps them out.  The apartments that the evacuees are getting are also giving them discounts until they get back on their feet.

 

Anyways, I better go. I love you!

 

~Joa~

 

Day Seven

Yesterday I was at Will Rogers for 5 ½ hours.

I also dropped by 2 or three times during my patrol shift.
I was on the front door the first four hours.

And assigned to the front and special detail the last hour and a half.

Jolene, the lady who I thought was George's MOTHER, oh, was THAT embarrassing, (I think they are a couple and probably only about 5 yrs age difference) was trying to get a ride to the school, her 14 year old son had some kind of tooth infection or jaw problem. She has been trying to find housing near Colleen, TX where her sister lives, but FIMA advises there is nothing available there, they are trying to find her something in a nearby town.

The contractor's wife approached me, she is out of the hospital! She looked wonderful! And, she got a job with Nokia today! She wants to know about the neighborhood around the middle school where here daughter is going to school so they do not have to move her, they like the college prep program there.

The guy who has lost his daughter and mom ( I think his name is Howard, but I am so bad with names as I have said) is spiraling downhill. Thursday night I saw him sneaking over to a can of beer he had stashed away from the outside table he was sitting at with Brenda, his neighbor, who’s boys are now at the shelter.
When I talked to him a few minutes later I realized he was intoxicated. This explained why all week he talks about finding his daughter, but never actually is actively looking for her. He is always well dressed and neat. This trauma may have placed him into a situation he cannot now handle.
Today he is in a wheelchair going to the clinic. Since yesterday he has consumed an entire bottle of antibiotics. He is taking valium and muscle relaxers also. I advise the nurse of what I had seen. They will despense his meds from now on. Brenda tells me she has never seen him drink, he does not ever drink. They are probably going to admit him into the hospital for his infection and Brenda will watch his belongings.

There is a lot of confusion today because our Shelter is the local registration for FEMA benefits. Anyone from any shelter or anyone qualifying for Katrina FEMA benefits in the area is to come to our Shelter to register for benefits. They also have the Red Cross, Salvation Army, Social Security, Medicaid, a Job Fair, and all of the normal shelter activities going on. Sometime in the middle of the day it is discovered that Texas is not going to issue food stamps to LA victims after all. The forms that were filled out need to be refilled out with new forms. I think LA is doing the Food stamps…..

Most of the people who filled out these forms have been processed and are gone.


They tell us only our residents are to get photo ID cards everyone else gets rubber bracelets like the Lance Armstrong bands. Then no, all evacuees need the photo ID’s as they have something to do with benefits. FIMA keeps telling evacuees they are only for residents. Someone keeps unlocking a back door so that people are coming in without going through the check point.
At least one man and his wife come in and attempt to get benefits with a TX ID. When we confront them they say they are with their brother who is an evacuee.

Then that they are volunteers. We escort them out.


We are told that a local appliance store might donate a washer and dryer this weekend.

Our Mayor and the local congresswoman show up for the photo op. I like our Mayor. He has always been a nice guy, very friendly and seems to really care about people. The local congresswoman used to be our Mayor, she is here for the photo op. When they walk in the door, I look up and there is Howard, fresh back from the hospital, where he must have refused to stay, shaking hands with the congresswoman. This group spends an hour here, standing right in the middle of every single access way, head of line and shaking hands doing the photo thing. I try and stay out of camera range in the background since I am assigned to guard the Mayor while he is here.
I have to leave, they are still standing at the command post when I go to my real job.

When I return later that night, Brenda is sitting outside, Howard is standing nearby, I ask him how he his. Brenda says she has his medicine and will be sure he takes it when he is suppose to. He says the hospital took all the old meds. His speech is still slow and measured like he has to think about his words. He has been out riding around on a bus. The gentleman beside him thanks me for talking to Howard. Howard tells me that he will not be ok until he finds his family. I tell him he is sick, needs to go inside, rest and look on the computer websites for his family. He says he is better, he has the right medicine now. I tell him it has only been 8 hours, medicine does not work that fast. Go rest, and look on the computer. He says he will. I am sure he has been drinking again….
Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
74, 2, 1, 1513
DJ Block Swaps
Blocks 248 Pieces 1701

 

Email From My Mother

(Just outside of New Orleans:

Subject: Local Perspective)

Some national columnists and TV news shows have been blasting

LA State and Local response to The Katrina disaster.

Since I live here and know what has happened from hour one I want to tell our side.

    

We did not know that Katrina was going to hit LA until Saturday afternoon, All weather reports said Ala. and Florida gulf coast. The people who left NO early were people who could and do leave whenever a hurricane enters the Gulf. Others (me) wait and see, others have no money, no transportation and no place to go. It was Sunday morning before we knew it was coming towards NO for sure. It made landfall at 6 am on Monday. That was about 18 hrs notice. The poorest had no way to leave. If state government or national made a mistake, it was not mobilizing all available buses on Sunday to evacuate people in the 5 parish area that was devastated (not just NO), New Orleans was not destroyed by the Hurricane. It was destroyed on Tuesday because of a break in the flood wall (not Levee) that separates the city from Lake Poncetrain. When that happened there were already thousands of civilian volunteers on their way and in the Parishes of Placquemines, St. Bernard, Jefferson, St. Tammany, Washington rescuing people, New Orleans was not the priority until the flood wall broke. Which most likely broke because one of the largest barges in the world banged against it repeatedly at the 17th St. canal location.

 

This barge is now setting in a housing district in the 9th Ward, far from the lake.

    Civilians with their boats, local fire departments, rescue workers, sheriff departments, police departments, State wildlife and fisheries department from all over this state, and other states poured into the area rescuing people from all these areas, boat load by boat load. The Coast Guard worked along the Mississippi river, small boats carried people to the Levee to be loaded on coast guard boats or to high ground on the elevated interstate.  These people worked without breaks, food or beds around the clock to save people. On one of my trips to the shelter here I counted rescue trucks, boats and ambulances from 12 different La Parishes. LA did their best, courageously and valiantly. On Thursday, less than 48 hours after the flood wall broke, It was evident how many people were still in NO. The Governor commandeered every bus in South La for evacuation from NO and the other parishes. That included Greyhounds, gray line, coach lines And all the school buses. The school bus drivers, who buy the own gas here and own their own buses went in mass to rescue people.

    

On Friday at 11 am I watched on T.V., live, the first convoy of national guardsmen arrive in NO to keep order, bring water and food and help get people out. This was 5 DAYS after Katrina hit! The people had been on the Levee, on the interstate over passes, in their attics, on their roofs, hold up on upper floors of hotels for 5 days without food or water and government help all that time. It took 3 days to get them out. Where was the Louisiana National Guard? They are mostly in Iraq. The Louisiana National Guard has has been to Iraq oftener, longer and had more casualties per population than any other guard. A lot of them live in the affected area, lost their homes, their regular jobs, displaced their families and were evacuated themselves. Those in training for deployment to Iraq were sent to the area.

    Almost 2 million people were displaced in LA alone by this tragedy. Over 400,000 jobs are gone for the foreseeable future. The death toll is undertermined so far and may not be known for months, if ever. We hear a lot about people dispersed to shelters all over the country. Gonzales has over 4000 people sheltered. We are a town of 8000. In the Baton Rouge metro area (5 parishes) We have 25 to 30 thousand people in shelters. There are approx. 240,000 thousand evacuees here, most staying with friends and relatives, and tens of thousands of relief personnel. If you suddenly hand a quarter of a million people in your city, that weren't there yesterday, what do you think would happen to your lifestyle and how would you have to adjust and how would they?

    Our traffic has doubled. The freeway and all major streets are bumper to bumper all the time. The 20 minute drive to my granddaughters school takes 45 min. to 65 min. now. The grocery stores are minimumly stocked and the lines are 20 to 30 minutes long. I made 3 trips to my little drug store to pick up prescriptions on Thursday, the lest amount of people in line was 18. Finally I just waited my turn. I have driven into Baton Rouge almost every day this week for one reason or another. The lest amount of driving time was 55 min. (normally 25 min.). I have seen hundreds of buses, all types, even the NO Hilton airport shuttle heading south on the i-10, flatbed trucks carrying port-a-potties , milk tanker trucks, every kind of emergency vehicle you have seen in your life, not one but dozens, pick-up trucks pulling boats, catering service trucks, and today 19 police cars, all with sirens and flashing lights in a line heading south. Why or what for I don't know and probably never will. I have contributed items to the Catholic Life center for the babies they are caring for that have no parents. 7 have been found, 14 have not. I have contributed to the animals housed at Lamar-Dixon that were left by people who could not take them to the shelters or were just picked off streets and out of water by rescuers, although they were told not to do that and to not let evacuees bring their pets with them. I was lucky, I had power back in 9 hours. A'astas' sewing teacher was out for 8 days, her school 10 days. Some people in this parish still do not have power.

But they go to the shelters to volunteer, to cook at churches, to collect supplies and distribute them everyday.

    I don't know where FEMA, the red cross and others were during this crisis, in the first week, But i do know where the everyday people were and what they were doing, and I am proud of them and the lives they saved. I am proud of our local politicians who stepped up to the plate and did their jobs in the midst of hell on earth without any outside federal help or supplies. I am proud of our Governor who did not sleep for 4 days and did the best that could be done with the help on hand.

    One last thing. There has been talk of should NO be re-built. Why? I don't remember any such talk about re-building Oakland-Berkeley or Los Angeles when they were devastated by earthquakes. Don't they still sit on major fault lines? How about all the towns that were destroyed by major floods in the mid-west a few years ago? Weren't they rebuilt on their flood planes. Who said we should scrap NYC after 9-11? Aren't they still a major terrorist target? No one voiced an opinion that Watts, Detroit or Miami should be abandoned after MAJOR riots there.  Florida has hand several Hurricanes in the last 15 years, they keep going back. New Orleans is 300 hundred years old. Everyone who has ever visited there has fallen in love with it. Every one I know who has been there has called to ask me how did the French Quarter fare. Of coarse it will be re-built. Of coarse we will visit again. Of coarse Mardi Gras will come again. The Superbowl, the Aquarium, Canal street, St. Charles, the trollies, great restaurants, all of it will be again, only better, because now we know what we have to lose.

 

                                                                                        Jean Sager

 

Just want you all to know I am still out here.


I am really tired. Worked from 930 till 2 am yesterday. Slept till 1030 and just have to do life stuff today. I will not get off today till 12 and have to be at the shelter at 6 am.

 

I will try and update you all tomorrow.
I have tried to post to everyone individually but have gotten behind the past 36 hrs.


No, I do not know anywhere you can send donations. Sorry.
Thanks for all the words of encouragement and support it really means a lot.
Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
74, 2, 1, 1513
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Day Eight & Nine

OK. I’m back.


Sunday I worked four hours at the shelter. I have had a sinus infection caused by my allergies since Friday. Sunday is really bad. At least I have been on antibiotics since Friday and I know I am not contagious because this is allergies.

These people do not need any more problems.


Howard is not around. I meet a staff psychologist and brief him on the situation. He promises to look out for him.

Brenda the neighbor looks for Howard so we can try and hook them up.
A lady comes in looking for the contractor and his wife, (Felicia and another George, I am learning names now that I have realized I have been doing the cop thing and not processing names). She has promised to take them to church. I tell her I have been here for several hours and not seen them at all.
My husband comes in to Volunteer for 4 hours at the shelter, he worked yesterday, Saturday and inspected all 9 area shelters. Today he is working here and I actually get to see him for the two hours - our shifts overlap.


The volunteer who is an evacuee, no I don’t know his name…. asks for help, he tried to pick up his money wired in from his partner in Houston at a large chain grocery store and was ordered out of the store by the manager and given a warning to never come back in! At another store there is no problem at all getting the money. I get my husband to pull a corporate phone number for him from his city computer.


John and Caroline are ok, Caroline has a toothache, but the dentist will see her tomorrow. She thinks they will pull her tooth. John's parents, brother and sister are now here at the shelter with them. Caroline has been busy working on military paperwork. I tell her she will have to stop smoking and not drink hot coffee if she has that tooth pulled or she will get a dry socket. This is the FIRST time I have seen her look discouraged even for a second, but only until she realizes she can drink warm coffee…

She constantly tells me to stop worrying about her because she is going to be ok.


Jolene is very excited today, she is going to Killeen. Someone is going to let her stay at her home with her children until she can get an apt arranged with FIMA. She is going to be near her sister. George has found his baby son and his mother.

They are in a shelter in Kansas City.


I go to my work shift.
My husband calls me, it is Sunday, football is on, the New Orleans Saints are playing. We are in Texas. The Cowboys game started before the Saints game was over. In the shelter all the fans were gathered around the 4 TV’s from 19” to 50” in size, 4 to 25 people gathered around each TV. The Saints were about to kick a field goal with the score tied, 7 seconds to play, 45 to 50 yd field goal, and the game was preempted for the local Cowboys broadcast….


The entire room went quiet.


Then just before the Cowboys kickoff the TV announcer said ‘We have a live update’ and the broad cast went back to the SAINTS GAME…. THE SAINTS KICKED, THE SAINTS SCORED THE SAINTS WON, AND THE ENTIRE SHELTER CHEERED. Every one smiled. My husband said everyone was in a good mood the rest of the evening.

It wasn’t just the evacuees, it was the workers, the FEMA guys, the volunteers, well, maybe not the Carolina fans…. But they hid it well.


At work I was miserable, my sinus infection is really acting up. I get off at midnight. At 11:50, I am unloading my car and from 15 blocks from sector the midnight shift officers start screaming for help. I start slamming car doors and drive. I am stuck at work till 2am.
My husband recorded the second half of the Cowboys game for me, I has been since before Katrina since I have relaxed. I sit at home in the dark, drink a beer and watch the Cowboys. They win too.
Yesterday my sinus infection was the worst it has been. I work till midnight.

I need to be at the shelter at 6 am.
Today I worked eight hours at the shelter.
I have not been at the shelter at 6 am before. The elementary kids and moms are up, getting ready for school. The food prep people are getting breakfast ready. But the elementary bus comes before hot food is served,

so the smallest kids only get cereal and milk.


It is really good to see these kids all dressed, with back packs on, kissing their moms goodbye and going off to school. I can hardly imagine trying to keep up with home work in these circumstances. The sleeping quarters is an open bay. Mattresses on the floor. Families have areas staked out. Everyone respects each other's space.

But there is no privacy, and it is getting really old.


One guy gets dressed in the open, then comes to tell me that he needs a belt. I note he has not showered in awhile and his pants are 10 sizes are too big.


Jolene is still here. I find out that she gave up her beds yesterday, waited on the front steps with her kids all day and the woman who volunteered to shelter her never showed up. Maybe she became afraid to take in an evacuee. But instead of calling just never came. Jolene is very discouraged. She has pulled her kids out of school ‘I’m not playing like I like this any more. They can fly people all over the country to be with their families, can't they drive me 3 hours?’ Jolene is working with FEMA to get moved to Killeen today or tomorrow. We talk about George. George had asked her to marry her before Katrina. She was not ready then. I ask her if she is now. She said that she can't even think about it, she has always been his friend, since they were children. I tell her, if she does not want now, to marry him after this, he is not the right one, because if he was, she would know after what they had been through.
I find a MHMR (Mental Health) person and finally get him to talk to Howard. I also ask him to check on the guy who was dressing in the open.


The Volunteer Evacuee got a hold of the corporate person at the grocery chain and they were not pleased that any customer, let alone an evacuee was treated as he was, they are correcting the problem.


Caroline had her tooth pulled. The military no longer has any housing available for her.
My husband comes in to inspect the kitchen for the day. He tells me afterward that I should eat here. From him this is a HUGE compliment. This means the kitchen is immaculate. He does not let me eat just anywhere. I have not ever eaten here. I have never had an appetite. Too emotional. I have lost 8 lbs the past 2 weeks. Several busses come in from other shelters. TX Dept of Public Safety are issuing TX ID cards today. We have to check everyone at the lunch line to ensure that our residents get fed first. I have to turn away several evacuees who do not live here who have lined up.
After everyone has eaten, I eat. The food is delicious.


I get a call from the person in charge of scheduling. I am scheduled till Oct 12th.
I get off at 2, go home and sleep.

 

Tonight my husband and I are BOTH off for the first time since the shelter opened.
Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
74, 2, 1, 1513
DJ Block Swaps
Blocks 248 Pieces 1701
 

Day Ten & Eleven

Have I worked at the shelter 10 days?


Wednesday I worked 8 hours. Got there just before 6 am. The lights were still off. When they turned them on there was no fanfare. I realized there is no clock on the wall. No wonder people come up and ask me what time it is all day. No one has clocks. Even little travel alarms would be good.


Jolene’s beds are empty. All of them. The kids, her brother and sister in law, George. They are all gone. No way to ever know where they are or how they went. They left the blankets, sheets, pillows and even the giant Shriek doll.


The past few days I have been watching a young mother and her 3 children. They are about 1,2 and 3. She says they have an older brother who is in school. Their father is always hovering around helping. An aunt has a 3 year old and a newborn. All the children are very well behaved and play well together all day long. They stay near their sleeping area and listen to their mother. There are no other adults and the father seems to have joined them after they arrived here. How did they ever carry all those kids out? She just says ‘With my sisters help.”


The evacuee who is a volunteer’s name is James. His brother is Charles. They have been here every single day. Charles has his arm bandaged heavily. I ask him about it. Right after the flooding started, he got his boat and started rescuing people. He did it until James showed up and they were both evacuated. That was about 2 days. Sometime during that time he had his arm bashed between the boat and other objects several times lifting people out of the water. He chipped a bone in his arm. I'm guessing someone is still using the boat.


At lunch time, the new director of the center decides that food services will serve food to all the evacuees in the building, not just our residents. A good sentiment, however she waits until after the food is being served, the kitchen was not informed they would be serving 200 extra meals, the dining room was moved Saturday into the residential area to prevent nonresidents from having access to the eating area, etc…
Basically this is a logistical mess.
Lunch is not over till 1:50. Only about 10% of the people milling around my residential area belong here. Strangers are in peoples bedrooms.


My husband, fortunately brings me lunch during this mess and sees what is going on. He was the one who helped set up the dining room area so it was safe in the first place. He advises them they must move it back to the other side of the facility if it is going to be open to nonresidents. It will be done by dinner.


The other problem is that at the opposite end of the sleeping area is a ‘shopping’ (donation) area. Where the donation items are laid out on tables, and hung on racks for people to take. This is also an area open to all evacuees. It has no divider. Anyone can wander from it to the sleeping area. I suggest that if they are going to have the ‘shopping’ area open to all evacuees, they should add another curtain and block off the sleeping area so the residents have more privacy. No one who does not live here needs to have access to their bedrooms.
I leave right after lunch is done.


Yesterday Trinity Valley Quilters Guild was suppose to set up its annual quilt show in the room where the evacuees are.
They have been moved across to another building.
I had volunteered to be a scribe for the judges several weeks before Katrina. So I stopped in to check on my families before I checked in.
The dining area and curtains had been moved. The sleeping area is much more private, for people who have much too little privacy as it is.
Jolene’s beds have been stripped.


John says that Caroline’s house may not be under water. They may rent a van on Monday and drive down to see if she can get back in. He zip code is scheduled to get back in then. Her plan is to move back in and move her daughter and grandchildren who are in a shelter in Baton Rouge in. His house is gone. He will come back here, where he can get assistance. If her house is gone, he will drive her back. I thought they were married, but they are not. Military widows loose their benefits when they remarry.

John and Caroline never married as a result.
Felicia and George II have found transportation and start at Nokia today.
And I've got to go, the quilt show starts in half and hour!
Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
74, 2, 1, 1513
DJ Block Swaps
Blocks 248 Pieces 1701
 

Week Three

I am working at the shelter on Tues/Wed now,

on my two days off from 0600 to 1400, that’s 6 am to 2 pm.


I was in the showers yesterday all day. Didn’t really see anyone I write about. The washer and dryer are still the same. I guess the donation ones from the local dealer fell through. The dryer still hardly works. At 6:10 am the line started.

There was always 5-6 people around waiting for laundry. About a load an hour.
 

The bathrooms were clean. But the worker who cleans it, came by only one time, around 9:30, and signed up for all the hourly checks through 2:30 pm on the sign back sheet at that time.

Rob was not a real happy camper when he came by for his inspection at 1 pm and saw that. He took the sheet up to the command post, made copies for them and the health dept, and left. You really should not forge health dept documents.


I took plenty of reading material, and my new DVD player Rob gave me for my Birthday. After I read the paper I watched a movie and worked on the DJ block I started before Katrina hit. Finally finished block number 75. Started on a DJ diamond I had prepped for appliqué. The evacuees think I am crazy sitting there in my uniform sewing. But they tell me about threading the needle for grandma when they were a little boy, or how their great grandma used to quilt.


Today I was at the bay doors in the main room.
Howard seeks me out. We have a long conversation. He introduces me to his mother and two sisters who live here now. This is the Howard who first got off of the bus from New Orleans. Now that he has his support system, he is himself. He found his daughter, she is with her maternal aunt. He thanks me for all of the support. He brags to his mother and sisters that he would not have made it if I had not pushed and prodded him. I think Beverly gave up on him, he made her crazy, but now I know why. The sister says, ‘I knew something was wrong, he kept saying everything was ok.’ I realize Howard needs the strong women in his life to get by. They are going to stay here in Texas. Howard is going to be ok.


John and Caroline are not here. A friend tells me they headed to New Orleans to check on Caroline’s house before the city was re-closed. She had talked to Caroline, and they were suppose to head back to the shelter, but I never do see them today.
We have a lot of new faces, evacuees have already arrived from Houston

in preparation for Rita.


FIMA checks are being passed out in the next building for evacuees, the line extends around our building. I heard 6 ambulances called for people passing out yesterday in the heat.
The place is just packed with people all the time now. Texas ID cards, FIMA, Food stamps, SS, Catholic Charities, Birth Records, Salvation Army, Red Cross, Parole Boards, Tarrant Co ID cards, Evacuee supplies, control center, play area, basketball court, computer center, sleeping quarters, dining and Kitchen, etc - all from this one room. (It’s a big room).


First thing in the morning, one of the original evacuees asks me, ‘If any big suitcases comes in, get me one will you?’ I am guarding the door where all the supplies are moved in from storage. No donations except water are accepted anymore. I tell her I can try, but won't promise anything. Suitcases must still be a really hot item. Later a cart of suitcases comes in, brand new, tags still on, the kind flight attendants use, with wheels and handles. I ask if I can have one. And the worker gives me one. An hour later the site director (the same one who screwed up lunch last week), takes it away and tells me if anyone wants a suitcase, they have to get it from her, they are only for families moving out. The lady comes up five minutes later asking about her suitcase. I tell her to go ask the site director,

I did have one, but they took it away…


Half an hour later the Red Cross brings in 5 wheel chairs and leaves them, says ‘These are for us, but if anyone needs them, let them have them” I think, ‘Yeah Right……..”

When a lady with a wheel chair comes over a little later and starts looking them over, I tell the site director and she sends her away….


I am watching a movie on my DVD player most of the day, it takes me 4 hours to watch a hour and a half movie, but then, I was working….


For the first time I do not see James and Charles…..
Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
75, 2, 1, 1530
DJ Block Swaps
Blocks 248 Pieces 1701

 

My Sister

(a Rita Evacuee)

Well, there's a million stories out there and ours is pretty mild.  Tiffany, Holly, Brandt, EJ and I packed up three vehicles yesterday and moved out of Deer Park.

(Already, I'm thinking of things I should have gotten and didn't - put family pictures, photo albums, important papers did come, as well as my computer):

 

I have not doing any preparation shopping.  I decided to skip my first period class (as it turns out, all classes were canceled for Wed. after all) and go buy water and non cooking foods to leave for Jim.  I can't find any flashlights or batteries. (All of our flashlights have disappeared or broken in the last few months).  I stop at a gas station to fill up, they have C and D batteries, but are out of flashlights.  I see a Radio Shack and think

"They'll have some and most people won't think of them". 

I stop and sure enough, they have flashlights.  Now Jimmy has food, water and light!

 

We left town about 3:30 p.m. with Brandt leading - being the person who's lived there the least amount of time, that made sense, right?  He was heading in the exact opposite direction I wanted him to take, heading for the highway I told me 'NO, we don't want to take that highway, it's a parking lot right now.'  I finally got ahead of him and headed in the direction I wanted to go - to Beltway 8.  We came to a dead stop a mile from the on-ramp and didn't move for 5-10 minutes.  I then told the other two drivers, "We're turning left here, going back to San Augustine St. and getting onto the Beltway there." From where we were, I could see THAT traffic moving.  So we headed that way.  Holly passes me up and tells me "I need gas." Oooookay.  We pull into a station...it's out of gas.  She says she has 1/2 tank, we can wait until we get to I-10 to get gas.  We get on the bumper to bumper, moving 5-10 miles an hour Beltway.  We pass over the road where we hadn't moved at all...it's not moving much.  It takes us 35 minutes to go 5 five miles.  We get to I-10 and head East.  Clear traffic.  We stop and fill up Holly's car and hit the road again. 

 

Within miles, we're in bumper to bumper traffic.  It takes as 45 minutes to go 5 miles.  Once the road opens to 3 lanes, it's clear sailing pretty much to the state line.  We stop on the way there to get Holly something to eat. 

I'm the last customer the McDonald's will take an order from, because they have to evacuate, too.

 

We get to the state line at 7 pm. This is usually a 1 1/2 trip, it's taken us 3 1/2 hours.  We're doing good, until we get to mile marker 23.  Then we are in the worst traffic we've come across.  It takes us an hour to go 3 miles.  This is coming into Lake Charles, LA.  The radio says there was a 3 car accident at the I-10/210 loop east bound.  By the time we get to that spot, it's cleaned up.  We stop at the first exit East of Lake Charles.  So does everyone and their brother.  It takes Tiffany and Brandt 30 minutes to get their McDonald's order filled.  We enjoy the time out of the car.  We pull into Gonzales at midnight. 

This is normally a 5 hour trip, it's taken us 8 1/2 hours.

 

I'm thankful.... Had we gone north to Ft. Worth, as first planned, it would have taken us

5 hours to get out of Houston, a trip that is normally 1 -1/2 hours. 

 

We may get the outer fringes of the storm here, but it will not be too bad.  I am worried what will happen to the Houston/Galveston/points west area.  It will not be pretty.

 

My grandfather is in a nursing home in Jennings, LA (near Lake Charles).  It's a War Vets Home.  They are erring on the side of caution and evacuate the patients to the War Vets home in Jackson, LA... the same place my father lives.  My mother and I drive up to Jackson to pick up my grandfather and take my father out for a milkshake and visit.  We get home about noon.  The traffic in Baton Rouge is not nearly as bad as it used to be, my mother tells me, but it's still worse than it had been.

 

We are here, safe and sound and I'll let you know how things go.

 

Jimmy, my husband, has stayed behind.  He'll hold the house together against the winds... lol.  I am not worried about flooding... We are on high ground.  I'm worried about winds and being without electricity.  I think our house will be okay.  But it may be difficult to get around town for a while.  I know we can stay here as long as we need to.

 

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers

 

Melinda

 

Another from

My Sister

(a Rita Evacuee)

 

We made it home safe and sound.  Got some on video, but don't know how good, as we were zipping along the interstate at 60-70 miles an hour.  Traffic was great. 

 I can understand why they have no power and will not have any for weeks to come.  It seems as if from Lake Charles to past Beaumont, trees have fallen on the powerlines.  It's going to take a while to get all the lines back up.  The hurricane seemed to especially dislike the rest areas in LA and TX.  Every single one of them had their trees knocked down, several times on top of the buildings or picnic shelters.  The one we always stop at  -the TX Visitor's Center- just past the state line, really had it's trees knocked down, but the one just before Jennings seemed to be the hardest hit for trees on buildings.  Worst place we saw was a little camping area  beside a lake outside Beaumont.  The campers were tossed around like matchbox cars.   Tiffany got that on video.  One or two were on their tops, one had a tree through it.  I sincerely hope nobody was home.

 

Glad to be home.  TTYL

 

Melinda
 

Evacuees Final Update?

Well I had not realized how long it had been since I had written. Life is such a blur. I did ask for a day off to clean week 4 I think, on Tues. Hardly made a dent. Had a migraine that Thursday. Had to take off. With these 4 to midnight shifts and working on my days off, I never see Rob and my stress level is high. We always snip at each other when we do see each other. If I did not have my Dear Jane hand work to do I would go nuts. I had a quilting block swap due Sept 30th I sent in a week late, another stress, and my grand daughter still does not have her own quilt. Our cat had major surgery and still won't eat 2 weeks later. Three more weeks of this Katrina at least. Rob is stressed also.
And we are not evacuees….


Two weeks ago, I worked at the shelter, by the bay doors again. This is noisy and hot. And I do not get to visit with my family’s, like I want. I also do not get to work on my sewing, like I would like to. The dining room is set up back in the common area.

 

Rita has caused a lot of chaos. Bus loads of elderly people arrived in the night before disrupting everything. They were evacuated from Rita, but their shelter was damaged by Rita anyway. They were processed medically here and had been planned to be housed here. However, when it was realized that these were elderly persons, it was decided not to put them in with the same population. Who is at the shelter at 2 am? Cops. So the only resource was the police. They opened up the police/fire academy and put them into the gym. The medical cases were put in the recreation center at the top of the hill, where the cops also had keys.


Two new shelters. What a shock for the big wigs when they got up in the morning…


The next two weeks, I get to be in the sleeping quarters. When I work, my schedule is, get off at 12 am, get up at 430 am, work till 2 pm. That is my day off. Only that week my friend in G district needed an officer Sunday night so I worked 13 hours Sunday 4 pm to 5 am, got up at 1 pm worked to 12 am Monday night, got up Tuesday 4:30 am and went to the shelter to start. I worked on the DJ BOM. Tried to watch a movie.


Felicia and George II are engaged, I am invited to the wedding, sometime in November. I thought they are married, they are the ones who said they were going to start on a new son the first day off of the bus. He is the contractor. She is showing off her new ring. They are featured in a 3 page spread in Ft Worth Magazine.


Caroline is back. She is tired. And tired of John's family I think. But shelter life is hard. She is moved out into an apartment, but not with John and his family. Everyone is surprised. Tonight I see his cousin, she tells me they are being moved into a hotel by the Red Cross.
Howard is the same man who got off the bus…


Beverly is challenged by two teenaged sons. One gets up every day and goes right to school. The other one, the police have to get up and send off…

They are moved into some low income apts on my beat.


The med looking student with the 4 small children…. Last week I talked to him, asked him how things are going. Bad. He wants to be a realtor. I make a lot of calls. Get him the information he needs, and an interview. He goes and buys an iron, irons his clothes and sets out. Comes back with all the information and is set to start school on the 10th. I come to work on the 11th. He is in bed asleep. I ask why. Well,,,, this happened and that happened, now there is not enough money. I tell him if he wants it go down and talk to them. Wednesday he is still there. I guess he did not want it….

 
I finally see 2 quilts there. I ask about them. ‘Oh we came from Houston’ I bet if all the quilters in the North Texas area knew that NONE of the evacuees who ended up in the shelters here would get any of the quilts we made, they would have kept them here…. Only evacuees who were in Houston got any quilts.


I take a lot of ribbing from other cops for taking an interest in my families. I am soft. I have evacuee syndrome. I have been exposed. Oh well… Some of my families are good people, some are using the system, I can still see the difference. I still have a vested interest in what happens to them. I do not have to contribute my money to them, just be interested.


Will Rogers closed tonight.
I started at one of the hotels Monday. That is really different. But the same. I am sure there are stories there too…

Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
76, 2, 1, 1551
DJ Block Swaps
Blocks 248 Pieces 1701

 
 

 

I am working in a hotel now, on my days off.

 

There are 15 rooms filled with evacuees who do not have apartments or houses yet.

It is very quiet there. I keep busy with hand work. The children are in school and the adults are in their rooms. It is very different than the shelters, and so much nicer than there for the evacuees. I really do not have any interaction with them any more.


It is interesting to see the ‘non-project’ (non-welfare) families interact with the ‘project’ families. I have seen moms and dads wait for their kids get off the bus and whisk them away from kids they deem ‘undesirable’. But I guess we all do this with children in our neighborhoods we don’t want our kids playing with.


When I first got here, we did have an evacuee who had been staying there for 3 weeks prior to the city moving shelter evacuees in. The hotel staff was at wits end. She had been begging door to door. Several paying guests had checked out as a result.

 

She told us she had not wanted to stay at the shelter, so checked out and the Red Cross was paying for her room. But because she had not stayed at the shelter and had no transportation, she had cut herself off from all other support. She did not know about ANY of the programs set up for evacuees. Once we got there and there was an on site coordinator, all the services were there.

 

But I have to say in my opinion, she cut her nose off to spite her face. If she had just been patient, and I know it was hard, she and her family would have been cared for.
None of my ‘families’ are at this hotel.
Jo

Dear Jane
Dreamin' of Jane - Blue and White
78, 3, 1, 1604
DJ Block Swaps
Blocks 248 Pieces 1701
 

 

   

 

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