Katrina: Back to the Pass

It has been seven months since the storm. The images are less vivid, its fading from memory and no ones wondering where their next meal will come from anymore. But the Gulf coast is still very much reeling from Katrina. Two weeks ago I became the first to utilized the new Cre8tive Group Missions Trip Benefit™ (except for Andy I guess, whose trips showed the need for such a policy). I went with another group of 75, again mostly students from Asbury College plus the wonderful addition of my hot fiancée Jen.

Arriving back in Pass Christian, it was remarkable both how much work had been done and how much work there was still to do. One house would be mere weeks away from being ready to be lived in again, while the one right next to it had not even been touched since the storm, still filled with rotting fridges and mounds of mildew that were once called “couches.” What an amazing psychological strain for those who are living in town; those who are trying to rebuild their homes and lives. If and when they get everything back in order, they still have to drive by the devastation each time they go to the nearest grocery store a town or two away. The remaining residents have gotten used to living in a trailer with less space than my office.

So what did I learn? People need hope. People everywhere, in every situation, need hope. Seven months after a major hurricane, they need hope to fight off depression. Hope that things are going to get better, that life will return to normal, that they will one day live in a building that doesn’t have wheels. So what if I helped build a couple sheds, cleaned up a yard and painted a house? In the grand scope of things, that’s really not all that much progress. But, what we really did was build a little hope, show them a little love to know that they’re not forgotten about, and get to know the residents of a little town where we’ll likely celebrate our anniversary some year.

Katrina: Dreamland

So right now I am just 7 hours away from leaving on my second trip down to Pass Christian, Mississippi, to continue chipping at the relief we were able to take a part in three months ago. I am very much looking forward to it again. One thing that was a highlight of the traveling part of the trip itself was this great Bar-B-Que place Joe B. had heard about on the Food Network. Dreamland, down in Alabama somewhere. So we found out where it was and stopped. We had three vans full of hungry folks and we were excited to get some Bar-B-Que.

We got seated on not the prettiest of patio’s we had ever seen. We could tell this place was local, with a capital “ocal”. On the tables were loaves of Wonder Bread and styrofoam containers of their home made sauce. We assumed we were supposed to dip and snack for something like an appetizer. They soon took our “Proud to serve Pepsi” drink orders…sweat tea for most. When the waitress returned, we realized we hadn’t gotten any menus yet. She said “We don’t have menus. Cause we only serve ribs. Ribs. No chicken, no beef, no pulled pork, no baby back ribs. No sides, no fries, no beans, no cole slaw, no corn bread…” Well you get the idea. “We only serve ribs. You can get them in three sizes, a plate, a half rack or a full rack. It’s cheaper to slit a full rack than get two half racks.” So we were kind of shocked, and I was more shocked when no one in the group really had any problem with that. Seems like everyone likes ribs enough to get them. So we quickly count the number of people we have and divide by two, and we order that many racks. It was good stuff too!

As we were making our way out of the restaurant some of us naturally stopped in the restroom, we had a long car ride ahead of us. As we were getting in the car, one of the other guys asked if anyone had noticed the bathroom graffiti. And now I normally try to keep my eyes away from whatever nastiness is written on those walls, but some thing caught my eye. The bathroom graffiti wasn’t your normal dirty graffiti. It had words like “Ribs” and “Bar-B-Q” in it. Turns out it was all along the lines of “Dreamland is the BEST”, “I love ribs”, “Dreamland Bar-B-Que is awesome”. Wow, now that’s saying something!

Katrina: Baywood House

So we saw a lot of damage down in Pass Christian. But one thing that was truly baffling was how much water this water front town had to deal with. The second to last day there my group joined Julie’s on what turned out to be a house that was in much higher water then we could really imagine.

Get this, the house was up on stilts, I would say the stilts were 8 feet tall. This house was on stilts because it was right next to the cannel. So it was on stilts so it wouldn’t flood, but it was not prepared for Katrina. There was 1 foot of flooding…on the second story above the stilts. There were giant holes in the roof. The house hadn’t been touched in the three months since the hurricane and when we got there. There was stuff everywhere. The bed rooms litterally had feet of toys, muck, clothes and drywall on the floor. When we got to the floor, we didn’t even know it was carpet or hardwood. The floor looked like the bottom of a pond. And in the cannel in the back yard, there was a house.

Twenty feet of water does really amazing things.