Thursday, September 08, 2005

Katrina Hits Home

As many of you know, I traveled to Mississippi today. Ever since Hurricane Katrina's destruction, I've wanted to come home to my family in Jackson, MS. It was not that I was concerned for their safety, having been able to communicate with them on a daily basis, it's just one of those things. Bad things happen, and you want to be with those you are closest to. I finally had the opportunity to come home today.
It's a little difficult to explain exactly how it feels or what it is like. Jackson is 200 miles north of the coast and did not experience large amounts of structural damage to the city and surrounding areas. However there were many fallen branches and even some trees and many people were without power for an extended amount of time. The remains of this can be seen as you drive around Clinton. Everyone has piles of branches and trees waiting at the curb. Anyone who was around during Lexington's 2003 ice storm can imagine this picture.
But it wasn't the trees that got to me today.
I arrived in MS around 2 pm central time. I went straight to the Jackson Salvation Army to drop some things off and volunteer for a few hours. I was so pleased to be able to unload two grocery carts full of donations sent down by my friends back home in Lexington. It was amazing how in less than 24 hours everyone was able to bring things by my house...I have the greatest friends ever.
After unloading the car, I volunteered in the food distribution room. I can't really describe how I feel or what it is like, so I will tell you about a few of the things I saw.
As I was unloading my car, an older couple (who looked like they could be any of our grandparents) was loading up their supplies into their car. As a Salvation Army volunteered pushed their cart full of toiletries and their food box out, the man said, "There that is our car. It's the only thing we have left." When you truly think about those words--- "It's the only thing we have left," you're floored. These people have lost everything. And you can read about it and see it on the news, but when you are standing next to them it hits home.
In the food distribution room I was handed a voucher for a family. I went around and filled up boxes of food and toiletries for them. About 1,000 people were serviced today at the Salvation Army and by 2 pm supplies were running low. There was no longer shampoo or deoderant to hand out. The food boxes consisted of an asortment of cheese and peanut butter crackers, graham cracker cookies, saltines, pudding, poptarts, nutra grain bars, green beans, corn, and peas. That's it. Each time I filled a box I just thought about how this was it. This is what these families had to eat. It's something you just don't dwell on it, because when you dwell on it, your heart aches.
It was a only a few hours of my day, and I don't feel like I have done much. I'm not going to see houses that are destroyed or a city covered in water first hand, but I am seeing the people so greatly affected by it. People who came to Jackson for a night or two and now have no home to return to, and no job to return to. Despite this truth, I saw many people smiling. They were thankful to be alive and to be with friends and family. It didn't matter that all they might have for dinner tonight was green beans. In my opinion, these people are amazing. Brave people who are living life despite having so much taken from them.

Many many people have been so generous to the Salvation Army and I know that tomorrow the food will be restocked and a larger variety of things to hand out will be available. Disaster relief takes time, resources, and money to organize. So we gave what we had today, knowing that God will provide the resources for tomorrow.

For more detials on what is going on at the Salvation Army here in Jackson, check out my Dad's blog. His is much more complete and includes pictures.