Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Bay St. Louis Experience

I’ve participated in a “mucking out” crew in Bay St. Louis rather than in a roofing crew in Biloxi. I got to view the full impact of Katrina’s fury. On the outskirts of Bay St. Louis I began to see the “Wizard of Oz” houses. Buildings uprooted and deposited in unusual locations in unusual orientations. We moved in to start cleaning out some houses that were still standing. Part of the crew I was with tackled a two story house where the water had gone over the roof. My team ripped out dry wall in a large house that saw three feet of water. The retired, disabled homeowner had ridden out the storm while the water rose to the top of his bed. Things had dried out pretty well in the past four months so it was mostly hot, dusty work. We finished the day by driving down to the gulf. Over several square miles it looked like a bomb had hit. All that remained were foundations covered by timbers and an occasional roof. It was a stunning contrast to have this incredible devastation on one side of the road with a glorious sunset over the gulf on the other side.

The first day was just a warm-up for our second day in Bay St. Louis. We worked in a house today that was about a quarter mile from the gulf. The inside was something out of the news stories we’ve seen on TV. Mold all the way up the walls and even across the ceiling. The light fixtures attached to the ceiling were completely full of water. We hauled out all of the furniture and gutted every inch of the interior. We also spent some time helping the homeowner salvage some pictures of her children. A large part of my day was spent cutting out soggy carpet and hauling it to the street. My work clothes are now safely packed away and will hopefully never again see the light of day.

I have had two very emotional experiences in these first two days. The first was from viewing the large FEMA “X”s written on the sides of the houses. These were used to record when the houses had been inspected. One of the quadrants indicated the number of dead found in the house. We never saw any with a number other than zero but I still found these “X”s incredibly poignant. The other experience was less ennobling. While working in close quarters with sledge hammers and crow bars swinging in every direction I became frightened and angry. Rather than try to deal with this in a constructive manner, I became sullen, sarcastic and rude. This experience brought out a dark side in me that I recognized but couldn’t control. This evening I asked for my team’s forgiveness and understanding and I prayed for God’s guidance.

Tomorrow we move out of the muck and up onto the roofs with the other teams. We pray for continuing good weather.

- Dave Mullins
Group Delta - Team 4


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