Our journey began as the first images of the devastation of Katrina hit the news. I had an overwhelming desire to do something to help those people effected. A few of my co-workers and I have been talking for some time now about joining the Red Cross and becoming instructors so we could come back and teach courses in our community. Now after seeing the destruction of Katrina, we began talking about how we could use our skills and training to help in the recovery efforts.
My good friends John and Dennis were going to be going down to the Red Cross with me and volunteer to help with whatever they needed, but unfortunately Dennis had to have emergency surgery and couldn’t join us. So John and I went down and volunteered to help in any way we could. They asked us to give our time and go South, which we agreed to without a second of hesitation. But circumstances for John changed, and he could no longer volunteer to commit to the 3 weeks necessary, and it appeared that I would be alone on my journey.. But then Teresa said she wanted to help and her family supported her decision, so here we are! We couldn’t be taking this much time off work without the help of our co-workers at OCEMS. They stepped up and filled in our shifts to make this possible for us. We are the 2 that are fortunate enough to have the freedom to put our lives on hold for 3 weeks and make this journey. We took unpaid leave of absence, but are blessed that when we get back we will have jobs, family, friends and a home to come back to. The people suffering from the wrath of Katrina are not so lucky.
On September 13, we attended a 2-hour orientation about the functions and roles of the Red Cross. Wed and Thurs we attended 12 hour classes that prepared us for the various job assignments we would be possibly doing, everything from filling out claim forms, feeding people in shelters, or driving an ERV (emergency response vehicle) and delivering food and healthcare to people in the outlying area. The ERV looks a lot like an ambulance from the outside, and of course we fell in love with that job! On Friday we had a 5 hour class to become certified in Red Cross CPR/First aid (not necessary for us, but we attended anyhow, never hurts to have a refresher course).
We were supposed to leave on Saturday, but due to paperwork complications down South, they delayed our departure until Tues so we would not be sitting at the main headquarters for 3 days waiting for our work assignments. So we spent our time making lists, it’s hard to pack for 21 days, especially when we do not know if we will have a way to wash our clothes during that time, so we have packed a lot! We both bought new boots, the threat of coming in contact with snakes is high, so we decided new leather boots would be a good investment!
So we are now packed, ready and waiting to deploy Tues morning. We only know we will be flying from Grand Rapids to Biloxi, MS. We do not know where we will be staying or what job we will be doing. They tell us to be prepared to live in a shelter with the evacuees; we will possibly not have any running water, no electricity, no phones or cell phones, and possibly a shortage of food. We are optimistic that these conditions will be better by the time we get down there, but they are preparing us for the worst.
My husband Greg is so supportive of me. He has given me his blessing, understanding that I have to go down there and do what I can to help. We have had classes and training that will help us along the way, and our hearts are telling us this is the right thing to do. Greg has set up this website, so family, friends, and those who support us can follow Teresa and I through this journey. We will be keeping a daily journal of our adventure, and hopefully, will find a way to get our story back home in a timely fashion so Greg can update the webpage. We may not have access to a computer or Internet; so I may have to resort to the old fashioned “letter and stamp” method of communications!
So our journey begins.. We will be leaving Tues morning at 7:45, and will do our best to represent the people of Oceana County, and bring the well wishes and prayers to those who need it.
See you all in about 21 days!!