Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans and Gold Coast parents that the heroic thing: they would load their children on to the rescue helicopters first.
Having no idea about which rescue helicopter was which, here and soon found himself in the horror situation of having no ID where do children were investing no way to contact them.
Children often ended up in shelters hundreds of miles away from the parents.
On March 16, 2006 the last child was reunited with his parents.
Much of the work of locating and reuniting children with their parents was done by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
The center used to techniques to reunite families: old-fashioned shoe work, beating the streets and talking with people, and spreading the word to the media.
The Hurricane Katrina hotline and website were used to accept information provided by the public.
Public support was so huge with up to 20 million hits a day to the web site that it soon brought the server down. The center appeal to Sun Microsystems for help; within a day a high-end server was delivered and set up to help manage the web traffic.
The center itself also so local to credit on to the media, calling it the media’s finest hour.
CNN for example was doing daily into fugues on the scene about stories of lost children.
People magazine read a story about a two-year-old girl in a shelter in Mississippi. Using her first name but no last name, because nobody knew it, Kalite Unknown was reunited in use in with her mother after her mother told CNN.
In yet another case one of the centers team members was trying to get information from another two-year-old girl. The girl was too traumatized to give any information about herself, her family, or her address.
Working on a whim to team member took a digital photo of the girl and showed it to her. The little girl pointed to the digital image and said “That’s Gabby!”
A database search showed that the mother was looking for a Gabriella Alexander: mother and daughter were reunited days after.
Many lessons were learned from the work of reuniting families after Hurricane Katrina.
The federal government has designated the center is an national emergency child location Center in case of future disasters.
The center would like to remind everybody to be properly prepared for disaster at all times.
You should know where your children are at all times. When disaster strikes keep the family together.
Make sure you have up-to-date photos with your children and carry one of them wish you at all times.
In general, but especially when a disaster strikes, make sure your child has proper identification which include name, birth date I’m a address is, and phone numbers.
During an disaster use a sharpie or another marker to write this type of information on the body of younger children.
Take digital photos of all family members, or have regular photos bitch spiced, an e-mail or mail them to your extended family and your friends. Talk as early as today which are children what they should do in case they become separated from the family.
Friday, May. 9, 2008
A construction company owner who lost two homes in Hurricane Katrina claimed a $97 million Powerball prize, a jackpot won off a ticket he bought at a convenience store where he stopped to buy his wife a gallon of milk.
When he turned in the winning ticket, Carl Hunter became the largest Powerball winner in Louisiana’s history. He won the jackpot in January, but the 73-year-old small businessman waited nearly four months to claim the prize.
An avid lottery player, Hunter said he already had bought a Powerball ticket on Jan. 16 at the gas station less than two blocks from his home in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie. But he stopped at the station again that day to buy milk — at the request of his wife, Dianne — and got a second “quick pick” ticket.
“I had some change, and one dollar was used to buy this ticket,” Hunter said Thursday at the Louisiana Lottery Corp. headquarters in Baton Rouge, where he claimed his prize.
“It’s all about milk,” his wife said, smiling.
The couple, surrounded by cameras, was decidedly low-key about the multimillion dollar win, saying they didn’t have specific plans for the money — besides retirement and the rebuilding of a camp lost to Katrina.
“I’m retiring, you know, naturally,” Carl Hunter said.
Hunter took a lump sum payment that will give him $33.9 million after taxes, according to lottery officials. Asked why he waited so long to turn in the winning ticket, Hunter said he wanted to wrap up some of his construction work and finish his outstanding contracts. In fact, Hunter’s wife Dianne said he was still at work this week.
“I don’t think about buying elaborate cars or homes,” Carl Hunter said.
Hunter said he owned two homes that were destroyed in 2005 by Katrina, and he and his wife moved into a Metairie home she owned after the storm, the home that was near the gas station where he bought his winning ticket.
The multimillion dollar win wasn’t Hunter’s first winning lottery ticket. He said he won $5,000 off a ticket a few years ago.
West Metairie Shell, the gas station where Hunter bought his ticket, will get $25,000 for selling the winning ticket. The station, tucked among brick ranch homes and raised wooden houses in a middle-class neighborhood, lost its roof during Katrina, and the store was looted.
Thursday, May. 24, 2007
Paul Pablovich was the very picture of a good neighbor as he shoveled debris off the curb and mowed other people’s lawns in Lakeview, a middle-class section of town that was swamped with 15 feet of water during Hurricane Katrina and is now a patchwork of gutted and newly built homes.
But he wasn’t doing it entirely out of the goodness of his heart. He was protecting his investment.
Pablovich, an entrepreneur who lived in a different part of New Orleans before Katrina, bought a bungalow on the street from an elderly resident after the storm, renovated it and plans to live there with his fiancee. He purchased a second abandoned house for $107,000, fixed it up and hopes to resell it for $214,000. He would like to “flip” several other properties on the block, too.
The way he sees it, capitalism is the road to recovery for Lakeview.
“It’s how the country was built,” Pablovich, 38, said of the $600,000 he has pumped into the real estate market. “Free-market economics will kick in.”
Lakeview, a 7,000-home mostly white enclave in a city that is predominantly black, has emerged as a success story in the reconstruction of New Orleans through entrepreneurs like Pablovich and strong civic organization that existed long before the storm.
In contrast, hard-hit black middle-class neighborhoods in eastern New Orleans do not have the same financial means and civic organization, and are not drawing nearly as much private investment. As a result, their recovery is crawling.
“If you’re going to speculate, you’re much more likely to speculate in Lakeview than you would in the east,” said Louisiana State University sociology professor Jeanne Hulbert. “But you could end up, potentially, with a social and economic structure in the city that really carves out the black middle class.”
Nearly 21 months after Katrina, Lakeview has lights and other utilities, but still has no firehouse and no public school.
But it is a community so fiercely independent it tried in the 1990s to secede from the city. And its residents – who include business executives and other professionals – have considerable organizational skills.
Lakeview’s churches arranged for volunteers around the country to plant trees along Canal Boulevard, the main drag. And recently, nearly 1,000 original and potential new residents came to a civic association tutorial on how to navigate the city’s bureaucracy and find a reputable contractor.
In fact, the civic association drew up a list of recommended contractors by running credit checks on them and consulting the Better Business Bureau.
The group is so organized it has compiled its own data on rebuilding, finding in a February survey that 67 percent of Lakeview’s lots were in some stage of transformation. Seventeen percent were newly inhabited, just over 26 percent were under repair, and 23 percent had been demolished to pave the way for rebuilding.
In contrast, neighborhood leaders in eastern New Orleans, which encompasses four ZIP codes to Lakeview’s one, are just now undertaking a house-to-house count.
Independent research, at first glance, suggests Lakeview and eastern New Orleans have rebuilt at similar rates. GCR and Associates Inc. found last week that based on utility hookups, close to 36 percent of residents in the Lakeview ZIP code were back, versus 33 percent in the eastern New Orleans ZIP codes.
However, Richard Campanella, associate director of Tulane and Xavier universities’ Center for Biomedical Research, found that the flooding in Lakeview was, by some measures, far more severe. For example, nearly 22 percent of homes in Lakeview got more than 8 feet of water, compared with 3.5 percent in eastern New Orleans.
Lakeview has eclipsed eastern New Orleans in real estate sales since Katrina. Sixty-nine houses were sold there nine months before the disaster, compared with 147 during the past nine months of recovery, a 113 percent jump. In eastern New Orleans, 215 single-family homes were sold in the nine months before Katrina, and 287 during the past nine months, a 33 percent increase.
As he painted over the rust on an iron fence that ringed his family’s home in eastern New Orleans, Hank Long said it was obvious to him that his part of town was rebuilding with sweat equity more often than financial equity.
“In Lakeview, many of those houses were already paid for. A lot of people are still paying their mortgages here,” said Long, a 60-year-old black man. “Nobody has big money here. They gutted out their house, and that’s as far as they got. Whatever they could do, they did on their own.”
Hulbert of LSU said: “You have to remember the black middle class only took hold in the 1960s. That is different from several generations of middle-class life. Many middle-class blacks in New Orleans were the first in their families to go to college, and it appears many had their entire savings tied up in their homes.”
David Bell, president of the East New Orleans Neighborhood Advisory Commission, which formed in March to bind together 15 area groups, said a lack of private investment means eastern New Orleans is much more dependent on government recovery aid, with all the bureaucracy and politics that entails.
For example, a centerpiece of the eastern New Orleans redevelopment plan is a proposed $100 million shopping strip. But federal grants for the project will not be fully released until the city comes up with 10 percent.
Back in Lakeview, residents like to say that they ask mostly one thing of the city: for it to get out of the way.
TKTMJ Inc., a builder that is selling modular homes in the neighborhood, found the area so profitable that it established an office in Lakeview and has dubbed one of its designs “The Lakeview.”
Tommy Callia, a sales representative with the company, noted that most of those able to rebuild are middle class and white.
“I think we’re not going to be as diverse as we once were, and that’s going to be sad,” he said. “You can say it’s a little like a gumbo: If you don’t have all the ingredients, something is missing in the taste.”
Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2007
Too expensive to be renovated and too historically significant to be torn down, Pamela Bolar’s West Fourth Street house was deemed a total loss after Hurricane Katrina had done its worst.
That left the mother of two in a cramped trailer with two teenage daughters, praying – along with the local United Way chapter – for divine intervention.
“We kept that case in what I call ‘the miracle pool,'” said Sheila Varnado, executive director of Recover, Restore, Rebuild Southeast Mississippi, the United Way’s long-term Katrina recovery arm known as R3SM for short. “If a miracle came along, we’d pull the case out and do something with it.”
Several unforeseen marvels later, what once seemed unthinkable is just a month away – Bolar and her daughters will move into a brand-new home next month.
It’s the first time that R3SM, which has provided house repairs to a raft of uninsured or underinsured hurricane victims, is providing a client a house that’s being built from scratch.
“Words can’t express how I truly feel about this,” said Bolar, who explained that serious health issues keep her from working. “It’s just like a big house coming down from heaven to me.”
More specifically, it came from the upper Midwest.
A church group from Orland Park Christian Reformed Church, a congregation in a Chicago suburb flush with talented professional construction workers, determined it wanted to build a new home for a hurricane victim and asked R3SM to find an appropriate client.
Bolar – whose application for aid R3SM initially had to turn down because her needs were beyond their ability to help – was at the top of the list, Varnado said.
The miracles seemed to come in quick succession after that.
Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church donated four plots of land on Duke Avenue when R3SM asked for just one; a Bobcat from Larry Johnson Construction cleared the plot over the weekend; R3SM’s building partner, Carpenter’s Helper, found a way to lay a foundation in the rain.
And Monday, a group of 16 from Orland Park had erected the skeleton of a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 1,150-square-foot home before noon.
“Our purpose is to encourage people to use their gifts with a servant’s heart for helping others,” said Orland Park group leader Don Waterlander, his jeans caked with red mud from the construction site where his colleagues were nailing beams into a house frame with dizzying speed.
The group – affiliated with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee’s Disaster Response Services, widely known as the Greenshirts – is bunking at Westminster Presbyterian Church’s Wright House, he said.
Two more teams will come in successive weeks, and the project – including about $45,000 in donated building materials, heating and cooling systems, plumbing and electrical work – should be done next month.
That means Bolar and her daughters finally will get a bit of privacy.
“I can’t wait,” she said. “It’s really something to be in such small living quarters … it’s been a big adjustment for us.”
Though it’s unclear whether R3SM will be able to build homes for other clients, Varnado said the Duke Avenue house – and the string of miracles that made it happen – is an achievement in itself.
For Waterlander and his group of trained builders, the work itself is compensation.
“It’s just great to help people,” he said.
Monday, Jan. 15, 2007
Glen and Rebekah Markham are a bit taken aback by the worldwide publicity surrounding their child, scheduled to arrive by Caesarean section on Tuesday.
News outlets from as far away as Singapore are enthralled with the story of officers using flat-bottomed boats to rescue the child’s frozen embryo from a sweltering hospital in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The couple expected that maybe the story would show up in a local newspaper, and provide a page for the baby’s scrapbook.
“We never expected this much attention,” Rebekah Markham said Sunday.
The publicity has put them back in touch with childhood friends and neighbours. It’s also made it harder to get ready for the baby – preparations further hampered by the fact that Glen Markham can’t lift much of anything just now, or even install the baby car seat.
Markham, a New Orleans police officer, has been on disability since Dec. 3 when he wrenched his back wrestling a wanted man to the ground.
“We haven’t even picked out a name yet,” Rebekah Markham said.
That’s not because there’s a shortage of suggestions. They’ve ruled out Katrina, but friends and co-workers have suggested storm-related names, including Harry Cane for a boy and Cat Five for a girl.
Her husband’s choices include Duke and Nitro.
“I said, ‘I think that is a wrestler,”‘ Rebekah Markham said.
“Nitro could be liquid nitrogen, because that’s what saved him,” Glen Markham said. “For a girl, I like Breeze.”
When the storm hit, Glen Markham was assigned to the west bank of New Orleans, which didn’t flood. Most of his time in the next weeks was spent preventing looting and catching looters.
But the five frozen embryos that held the couple’s chance to give their son, Witt, a brother or sister were at a hospital in eastern New Orleans, which got some of the worst flooding.
Weeks after the storm, Rebekah Markham was afraid her embryos were gone. The embryos were among 1,400 frozen in canisters of liquid nitrogen at a hospital that housed one of the two labs for The Fertility Institute, the clinic which helped the Markhams create Witt.
The canisters can keep their contents frozen for weeks – but they’re designed for use in an air-conditioned room, not a building where temperatures were soaring into the high 30s during a hot September without any electricity.
Dr. Belinda “Sissy” Sartor helped lead a rescue expedition with officers from the Louisiana State Police and the Illinois Conservation Police, who were brought in because they had flat-bottomed boats. The officers plan to send the Markhams baby presents, said Illinois Conservation Police Lt. Eric Bumgarner.
The Markhams’ relief at learning the embryos were safe was far more than just knowing they wouldn’t have to pay another US$12,000 for a second round of in-vitro fertilization.
“We see our little boy – we see what the potential of those little embryos is,” Rebekah Markham said. “It meant more to us than a few cells frozen in a hospital.”
Witt is all boy, all energy, all two-year-old. His favourite word is “No!” Close behind is “tractor” – his green plastic battery-powered model, on which he zips around the yard.
At two, he doesn’t understand that he’s about to get a lot of competition for his parents’ attention. It will be good for him, the Markhams said. They said they’ll probably have him choose the new baby’s name – putting their top picks into a hat, and having Witt pull out one for a boy and one for a girl.
Friday, Dec. 15, 2006
More than a year after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans Steven Cure has been reunited with his best friend, dog Rocky.
“I knew he was alive,” Cure told the New York Daily News. “I never gave up, but I had to let go.”
Cure last saw Rocky as hurricane winds hit New Orleans and he left to help his parents evacuate. Rising waters cut him off from his home and dog.
Rocky, a boxer-Akita mix, was rescued by search crews who combed the city looking for abandoned pets. In February, he was sent to New York State to the Kent Animal Shelter in Calverton on Long Island.
Luckily, Rocky, an older dog, was not adopted. A few weeks ago, Cure finally learned his whereabouts and on Thursday arrived at the shelter.
Rocky wagged his tail enthusiastically as Cure asked him, “What do you say, Rock? You remember me?”
Friday, Nov. 17, 2006
In the chaos of a freakish downpour as a river of water, mud and debris gushed down Pershing Avenue, Mary Larriba’s dog, Feather, disappeared into the sodden night. [Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries About The Event That Changed History]
The Oct. 13 storm cell that pummeled a north San Bernardino neighborhood with 2 inches of rain in less than an hour sent torrents rushing through 18 homes, causing thousands of dollars in damage.
Larriba was at work during the storm and had no way of knowing that Feather had gotten loose.
“He’s an escape artist,” she said.
The young chow mix was one of Larriba’s great joys.
“He’s the spark around here, and I missed him,” she said. “It was lonely out here without him.”
Her home suffered damage to carpets and to property and cabinets in the garage.
But that was nothing compared to losing the dog with such a happy, rambunctious personality.
She had adopted him as a puppy after she saw him get hit by a car in a supermarket parking lot. Surprisingly, he wasn’t hurt.
It appeared he had another surprise in him. Feather survived the flood and wound up at the home of a neighbor who didn’t know where he belonged.
The neighbor called a small rescue group called Tina’s Hope, which specializes in finding homes for cats that wind up in shelters.
When the neighbor couldn’t reach anyone in the rescue group, she had to take Feather to the animal shelter, said Marty Layes of Tina’s Hope.
The group was finally contacted and managed to make sure the dog wasn’t euthanized while searching for his owner.
After reading a newspaper account about another neighbor who was worried about the missing dog, they were able to track down Larriba and arrange for Feather to be reunited with her.
She was immensely grateful for the help from Tina’s Hope.
“If it hadn’t been for all their hard work, he would have been put down,” she said.
Unfortunately, Feather was off to the veterinarian on Thursday.
Since coming home more than a week ago, the normally spry Feather was listless, losing weight and had a cough.
Larriba is thrilled he’s home and just hopes he gets well soon.
“When he’s feeling good, he’s all over the place. He’s a friendly, happy dog.”
The vet prescribed a stronger antibiotic and a cough suppressant.
“He’s a member of my family “I’m so glad to have him back.”
Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006
Today a group of Dubuque Catholic Charities volunteers from Dubuque will tear into the wreckage of Isaac Bolden’s home in the Gentilly quarter of New Orleans.
The structure is the 1,000th home Catholic Charities volunteers have rescued in the year since Hurricane Katrina inundated the city and sent tens of thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives. [Unnatural Disaster: The Nation on Hurricane Katrina]
The 10-member demolition crew, led by the Rev. Jack Paisley of Dubuque, is made up of members of Resurrection Catholic parish in Dubuque.
“We have two more groups who are going in February,” said Sister Francine Quillin, pastoral associate. “We have a very active social justice committee in our parish. ”
For the most part, the Catholic Charities crews have focused their efforts on helping elderly and disabled homeowners begin the clean-up process. The Bolden home was inundated by 10 feet of water. Bolden did not have flood insurance and he has experienced major health problems.
Bolden is currently living in an apartment in Atlanta. He is traveling by train to thank the volunteers, according to Corinne Knight, spokesperson for Catholic Charities in the New Orleans archdiocese.
“A lot of people are so moved by the experience that they want to do more,” Knight said. “They want to continue their relationship with the community, something we are so grateful for.” [Rebuilding Your Broken World]
Operation Helping Hands began over Thanksgiving weekend last year and has taken off largely by way of word-of-mouth organizing, organizers said.
“A thousand homes gutted means that 1,000 families have started to rebuild not only their homes, but also their lives,” said Joan Diaz, project manager.
To date, 6,848 volunteers participating in Operation Helping Hands have gutted 999 homes and given 178,641 hours of service valued at more than $5.4 million, Knight said. More than 3,000 volunteers from across the United States are scheduled to participate in the project through March 2007. About 1,000 homes remain on the waiting list.
Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2006
Oprah Winfrey, thousands of her fans and teams of architects are working to help families rebuild.
Oprah’s Angel Network is paying for the rehabilitation of 70 storm-damaged houses and the construction of four model homes for families who lost everything with a $3 million grant to the East Biloxi Coordination and Relief Center. Architecture for Humanity is designing the models and using other contributions to build a fifth house.
City Councilman Bill Stallworth, executive director of the Relief Center, revealed Winfrey’s involvement with permission from the network.
“She puts her money where her mouth is,” Stallworth said. “I just love that about her.”
The celebrity covers the charity’s operating costs so 100 percent of the donations it receives go directly to relief efforts. The charity has also given the Local Initiatives Support Corporation $2 million to repair, rebuild or build 80 homes in D’Iberville, Miss., and New Iberia, La.
Winfrey helped organize relief efforts immediately after Hurricane Katrina and broadcast her show from Waveland, Miss., on Sept. 7. Representatives of her charity later met with Stallworth and toured East Biloxi. Construction of the model homes is expected to begin in January; some of the rehabilitations are under way.
“We have three homes, one complete and two pretty complete,” Stallworth said. “We are starting a round of another 10..”
Architecture for Humanity was founded in 1999 to promote design solutions to global, social and humanitarian crises. In Biloxi, architects were given the task of designing homes that would cost between $90,000 and $125,000 to build. Cameron Sinclair, one of the founders of the charity, said volunteer architects have embraced the task.
“All these families have is the land they own,” he said. “How do you make it financially viable for a family to grow?”
Three models at the relief center show the answers from three firms, MC2, Marlon Blackwell and Studio Gang Architects. MC2, a Houston-based firm owned by two Vietnamese brothers, came up with the “adaptable bungalow,” which combines elements of Southern and Asian architecture. Marlon Blackwell’s “pinecone house” exposes geometric structural supports and an open-air concept. Studio Gang’s “porch dog” looks like a mod beach house.
All will be built on pilings to comply with FEMA’s recommended base elevations. They will go on scattered sites in flood zones, but none will be built near the shoreline where casino companies and land speculators are buying property, Stallworth said. The families selected for the houses represent the diversity of East Biloxi, he said.
Mike Grote, a coordinator with Architecture for Humanity, said it was no easy task narrowing down the applications. The organization has a goal of building two more model homes, but needs funding.
The Relief Center is no longer taking applications for model homes, but it is still taking applications for rehab projects.
Thursday, Sep. 21, 2006
Seabees are known more for their construction and battle skills than their prowess in the water. But retired Seabee Doug Byers put his swimming skills to the test the day of Hurricane Katrina when he was working as a Harrison County sheriff’s deputy in D’Iberville.
His long swim, and the lifesaving efforts that came with it, earned Byers the honor of Law Enforcement Officer of the Year from the Mississippi Veterans of Foreign Wars. He won the award over other deputies from throughout the state’s 82 counties.
“We all did our best,” the modest Byers said when he received the award this week at the D’Iberville City Council meeting. But others say there’s more to it than that.
“He’s a true hero. He rose above,” Harrison County Sheriff George H. Payne Jr. said.
The story begins with Byers, who has been on patrol in the city for three years, setting out the morning of the hurricane to rescue District 1 Constable Windy Swetman, who had reported by phone that floodwaters were rising around his D’Iberville home. But the five-ton Army truck Byers was driving stalled and became engulfed in surge waters and he found himself in danger of drowning.
Byers struck out swimming in search of higher ground. He came upon a man and two women struggling to stay afloat in the water. Calling to them that he was a sheriff’s deputy, Byers pulled the trio to him as the flood swept all four people down Central Avenue.
He saved the women by putting them inside a huge drainage pipe that was floating by, then took the man to safe ground elsewhere.
Byers then went to a shelter at D’Iberville High School, found help and set out again to successfully retrieve the people he had rescued.
“He did his duty, but that’s not what I thought was extraordinary,” said sheriff’s Capt. Windy Swetman, Byers’ supervisor and the son of Constable Swetman. “He literally put those people’s lives in his hands and he never wavered one time.”
Swetman nominated Byers for the VFW award. As for his own father, the senior Swetman survived the floods by taking refuge in a tree for several hours.
“Even the buzzards wouldn’t take him,” Payne joked.
Monday, Sep. 4, 2006
If you ever had any doubts about dog being man’s best friend just talk to Earle Bryant.
The New Orleans resident was forced to evacuate his home during hurricane Katrina…and says he had no choice than to leave his beloved German Shepard, Ragnar behind.
“He’s like my son, I love him to death,” said Bryant.
Before he left, Earle left plenty of food for his pooch and a note, sealed in plastic urging rescuers to save his pet. Earle says he had no idea if Ragnar had been rescued and expected the worst.
“It was a tough decision,” said Bryant.
His expectations turned from grim to great one day he read an article mentioning that Ragnar was rescued and sent to Molly’s Kennels in Doylestown where he was adopted by a local couple.
Earle worked with the organization No Animal Left Behind to get him back, a process that’s taken a couple months, but Earle says Ragnar was in good hands.
“They have been unbelievable. They had no idea what was going on,” said Bryant of Ragnar’s adopted caretakers.
Earle’s reunion with Ragnar was an emotional one that reduced Bryant to tears.
For now Ragnar will continue to stay in Bucks County with his foster family because Bryant is currently living in a trailer provided by FEMA, which prohibits large dogs.
Now Bryant has more incentive to get his house in New Orleans back in order.
“I’ve decided to let the foster family have him a little longer ’til my house is where I can move back in it,” noted Earle.
Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2006
It was bad enough that Jason Williams (name changed) had witnessed Hurricane Katrina. Now, he was in the Superdome with others who had lost everything. But the worst wasn’t over yet.
While in the Superdome, he witnessed some of the criminal activity the news had reported, such as robberies and assaults. It was a nightmare that he wanted to end.
Fast forward to Chattanooga, Tenn., to the relief center where Mr. Williams was flown to from New Orleans. A place to rest and recuperate (or that’s what he thought) until he heard some men saying, “Wasn’t he at the Superdome? Didn’t he see what we did?”
That’s when Mr. Williams met Dr. Rozario Slack, pastor of Temple of Faith Deliverance Church of God in Christ.
“He told me the very men he had seen involved in criminal activity in the Superdome were now at the relief center with him, had recognized him and were planning his demise. We had to get him out of there,” Dr. Slack explained to The Final Call. “So we smuggled him out and put him on the next Greyhound to parts unknown.”
That’s just one example of the countless heroic efforts undertaken by ordinary citizens across the country that decided to step up and help the victims of Katrina.
“These are my people,” stressed Dr. Slack. “I have to do something to help them.”
His church gathered clothing and bought airline tickets to reunite families.
“We organized the congregation to donate their frequent flyer miles to provide tickets so families could be reunited,” he said.
Houston has become one of, if not the, largest second home for victims of Katrina who can now be found in 48 states. Many went from the Superdome in New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston.
One of the many unsung heroes in Houston is ACTION CDC (Accepting Challenges to Improve Our Nation Community Development Corporation). What started as a simple clothing drive and food program has turned into a comprehensive program that provides case management for 500 families.
“We provide home visits, counseling, mental health services and health care,” explained Eric Muhammad, ACTION’s director of Health and Human Services. “We provide the resources to help these people gain their self-sufficiency.”
“The transition from New Orleans to Houston has not been easy for them. This is the fourth largest city in America. They reside in far out Houston, that doesn’t have access to public transportation,” he explained. “That means no bus lines, so they can’t access the resources as readily that they need.”
The problems are further complicated because they are not around their family members.
“We see many families suffering from being away from home. Further, they are here with the stigma of coming from the murder capital of the world,” Mr. Muhammad remarked. “They are lonely, frustrated and have health problems. They are lonely for the way of life they knew. This is Houston and we’re very different from New Orleans.”
The goals of ACTION, founded in 2000 by Nation of Islam Southwest Regional Minister Robert Muhammad, are to develop programs that meet the needs of people in five different areas: Education, Health and Human Services, Affordable Housing, Economic Development and Arts and Culture.
“The response to our work has been awesome. We’re treating disaster issues while also treating pre-disaster problems,” Mr. Muhammad explained.
The group partnered with the New Black Panther Party and National Black United Front to secure a large grant from Katrina Aid Today to do this work. It also received $50,000 from Islamic Relief to fund its feeding program.
The stories of unsung heroes are numerous. Consider the families that took in relatives in spite of the fact of limited space; the people who drove to the area to rescue families that they did not know; the volunteers who left the comfort of their home to aid the needy in the Gulf Coast area; and the students from colleges and universities who spent their spring break, not on the beach sunning and funning, but providing much needed assistance to the Gulf Coast.
The Final Call salutes your efforts.
Monday, Aug. 21, 2006
A cat and its owner were reunited at a Kings Beach animal hospital Monday afternoon after almost a year of being separated following the wrath of Hurricane Katrina.
Tammy Hupin, a 36-year-old New Orleans-based court reporter, went through the pet rescue foundation Noah’s Wish to connect with the displaced 3-year-old mix named Lucy.
“I had to give her up because I lost my house,” Hupin said on the way to Agate Bay Animal Hospital. “But I found out she had never been adopted.”
For her special reunion, Hupin came armed with a gift basket of toys, old pictures of her cat and tissues. She couldn’t promise not to cry.
She said it was all she could think about, after pulling up to the hospital in a large, black sports utility vehicle driven by Noah’s Wish representative Jennifer McKim. The nonprofit pet rescue foundation based in El Dorado Hills arranged for the gathering.
Last October, Kings Beach veterinarian Dr. Bree Montana, in a partnership with Noah’s Wish, traveled to Louisiana to work at a temporary animal shelter where displaced pet owners surrendered their animals in the weeks immediately after the storm. Strays were plucked from the attics and treetops of the flooded region.
Hurricane Katrina, which rolled over southeast Louisiana on Aug. 29, claimed the lives of 1,836 people, devastated 100 miles of the Gulf Coast, flooded 80 percent of Hupin’s city and caused $81.2 billion in damages.
Montana described her triage work in Louisiana for the marooned animals as one of the hardest experiences in her professional career.
She was able to bring back one cat through efforts by Incline Village’s Pet Network, working in conjunction with Noah’s Wish and Kanab, Utah-based Best Friends Animal Society to bring several Katrina cats and dogs to the area for adoption. Most have since found homes.
A few weeks after Montana returned from the storm’s epicenter, she received a call from a Noah’s Wish official.
Twenty felines were flown to Sacramento.
“They all needed shots, and tests… many were ill, or shocked – it was a tough few weeks,” Montana said.
One by one, the cats were vaccinated, cared for and adopted – except four of them. Lucy was among them.
Clad in a sequined “I Love Lucy” shirt, Hupin cradled her beloved cat for the first time in 11 months.
Hupin was concerned about Lucy’s transition living once more with other animals in her household.
“She’ll probably warm up to (them). But keep them separate at first. Cats are like families at Thanksgiving, reunions can get a little heated – just give it time,” Montana said.
Hupin, who has been living in a one-bedroom apartment in Austin, Texas – will move back to New Orleans on Oct. 1. Her three-bedroom home east of downtown has been vacant since the storm. She will decide this fall whether to sell it or fix it up.
“For now, we’re moving up-town,” Hupin said. “I’m going to get back to work, get settled – and we’ll go from there.”
“We’ve never had this kind of reunion before,” McKim said. “It’s unreal.”
Hurricane Katrina was the sixth strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded.
Wednesday, May. 31, 2006
Guardsmen relayed calls and text messages to locate survivors and connect relatives
Frantic was the word Gene Barattini, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Louisiana National Guard, described the days after the New Orleans levees broke following Hurricane Katrina in August.
Even as he sat in Bossier City, more than 350 miles away from the disaster, he knew he needed to do something as cries for help came in from cell phones, text messages and sometimes relatives from several states away.
“Calls were coming from all over the country,” said Barattini, who works as a liaison between the Guard and the Caddo-Bossier Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness. “The best we can figure is that operators were telling people the closest big city was Shreveport and Bossier City.”
With the help of other Bossier City-based Louisiana National Guardsmen stationed at their Military Drive Armory in Alexandria, as well as those deployed to south Louisiana for the storm rescue efforts, Barattini was able to turn those cries of help into information that led to the rescue of more than 400 people trapped on roofs of flooded homes and buildings in New Orleans.
Tuesday, the Caddo-Bossier OHSEP acknowledged the effort of Barattini and three other Louisiana National Guard members for their unique role in those rescues.
Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker presented the awards, placing the Louisiana Cross of Merit around the necks of Capt. Jason Kendall, Sgt. 1st Class Russell Johnston and Sgt. 1st Class Neal Purcell and placing a Louisiana Legion of Merit award around Barattini’s neck.
“It’s an amazing display of cooperation, coordination and doing things beyond what the book says to do,” Walkers said.
One of the first calls Barattini took was from a Bossier City resident who was receiving text messages from her relative stuck on the roof of a building in St. Bernard Parish with 200 other people and they were surrounded by 20 feet of water.
“I asked her to send us copies of the test messages and we might get something like ‘200 trapped, 20 feet water,’ I could tell by the urgency in her voice and by piecing together the information we had to do something quickly,” Barattini said, adding that there were few phone lines south of Interstate 10 that were working. “New Orleans numbers were down and the Baton Rouge numbers were jammed.”
He called who he could. Kendall, Johnston and Purcell were the key contacts who helped push those messages and cries for help through to people who could deploy and rescue those trapped.
“There was some luck involved,” said Kendall, who at the time was in Alexandria involved in a mission of transportation of supplies, not rescue.
But Kendall coincidently used to work in a position that allowed him access to some high-level phone numbers in the Baton Rouge Emergency Operations Center and, more importantly, those people were working on that day.
“We had a direct line to the right people. It was pretty amazing,” he said.
News of the rescue for the 200 people came within the hour after Barattini got his message through.
According to the Emergency Operations Center log at the Caddo-Bossier OHSEP, on several occasions family members hearing positive news called back and credited the unique 350-mile “safety line” for saving their loved ones.
Barattini added he never thought he’d be working a disaster rescue through cell phones and text messages.
“It was the incredible teamwork. These guys were the hub of information that led to people getting rescued.”
Tuesday, May. 23, 2006
Rescued from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, 19 African black-footed penguins have arrived back to their New Orleans home in style.
Accompanied by two sea otter friends, the animals were welcomed at New Orleans airport by a brass band before being whisked back to the Audobon Nature Institute.
The creatures had been staying at an aquarium in California since September after being rescued from Hurricane Katrina.
Ron Forman, Chief Executive Officer of Audobon Nature Institute, said: “This is a historical day for the city of New Orleans.
“We were hit with the worst natural disaster in the country, our city has been shut down for almost nine months, the city is coming back.”