Sunday, March 16, 2008


Sherri and I hopped in the van and hit the backroads around Biloxi, Mississippi with a cooler full of tetanus vaccine, a box full of syringes, and multiple dressing supplies. We were 2 weeks out from Hurricane Katrina and the devastation still amazed me. Every road revealed something ripped apart and given to the winds as if it were an offering to the gods.

I will never forget the people we met that day. They were resilient, hopeful, hardworking people of the South -
and I fell in love repeatedly with their spirit. I had spent the previous week working in a shelter where the majority of people were angry, mean spirited, and had the largest sense of entitlement I had ever seen. It was quite refreshing to get out and meet some of the people who loved their homeland - even through the devastation. They had hope and did not fear working hard to get back what they had lost.

We dressed the arm wounds of a lady who had literally hung onto a rope in a tree for eight hours while the water swirled around her. She talked of seeing snakes swimming at her feet and watching t
he remnants of peoples lives float by her. She was sifting through the wreckage that used to be her single wide trailer and trying to pick out anything left. She had a handful of photos that had been trapped under some debris. That was it.

We found an elderly lady sitting in her home laughing as she went through the boxes at her feet. We could see the water marks on the walls of her living room - black mold and dirt approx 4 feet high. Her couch was in her kitchen and her car was halfway through her living room wall - filled with plant debris. But she was still laughing at the memories in her box.

We wrapped a leg wound on a man who was cutting apart the tree that had fallen on his house. His kids were running around the front yard playing tag with each other while his wife sifted through their belongings scattered over the driveway. He talked about coming back home after they had evacuated and the first thing he saw was the foundation to his neighbor's house. No house - just the foundation. He still didn't know where his neighbor was. They had been best friends for the last 10 years.

We rounded a corner in Ocean Springs and came upon a lady whistling and hanging out her laundry. I remember how unbelievably white the sheets were on the line. She offered us some ice cold sweet tea and some cookies. Her house had flooded but she refused any help from us. "I got it all taken care of hon," she said. She sent us on our way with a pitcher of tea and a box of snacks. "Y'all do some good out there now, OK?" she shouted as we drove away.

We dressed wounds, gave shots, helped people move furniture, and spent hours helping sort through debris. But I gained more from the people there than I could ever have given them. They showed me that great sorrow and huge tragedies birth hope.


Southern Gal Nursing Student said...

Wow, that is awesome and so inspiring! Thank you for sharing your experience.

Tena said...

I just found your blog & came across the post about Hurricane Katrina. I wanted to say thanks so much for not painting this area in a negative light. I am from Louisiana & my husband served 3 months in New Orleans after Katrina providing security. (He's in the Air Force National Guard) I get so sick of everyone slamming New Orleans & the people. Yes it was a horrible situation but it feels good to have someone talk about the people who were picking up & moving on. Even if it is the people in a different state. Again, thanks so much.

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Kelli said...

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