Monday, March 10, 2008

The last two weeks

Sunrise just outside Washington, DC, visiting my DS and DDIL. They have a marvelous view to the southeast from the 7th floor of their apartment building (actually looking directly at downtown DC, but you cannot really see it). It was really nice to rest and relax from my prior adventures and also to get to visit with them (which Mama never gets enough of!) During the week they worked and I amused myself. On Saturday we got to spend a big chunk of the day at the National Zoo - I'd never been there.

Then on the Sunday I flew to New Orleans and met up with 18 other folks from my church denomination (UCC). We were there as part of the national Disaster Response efforts. We were divided into four groups (which later became 3) and were assigned to 3 homes. Our tasks included sheet-rocking, taping, mudding and sanding, texturizing ceilings, painting and general demolition and clean-up. And "no" I didn't really know how to do much of any of these things beforehand. But we were trained and supervised and gently guided into doing the work needed to help refurbish these homes. It was a truly amazing experience - with both great highs and depressing lows. There was lots of laughter and at least as much tears. It is so incredibly sad that some folks are still without a home 2 1/2 years after Katrina and Rita. There is some governmental help available, but it is largely the faith communities that have shown up. I worked on a duplex "shotgun" house (each room is directly behind the other - no hallways) belonging to Miss Otha. She did come to visit us one time, while we were working.

As you can see the house has been painted, but there is no electricity or plumbing. We would visit Home Depot once or twice a day to use the "facilities". We would walk down the aisles headed back to our house and people would stop us and thank us for our work - completely unbidden. They would just ask if we were in town to help with rebuilding and then thank us and then tell us their "story". It was just so profound for them in the telling and us in the hearing. [You may notice that I managed to get a lot of plaster dust on my camera lens.]

We stayed in a dormitory that has been set up in a local church and had some of our meals there, as well. We did have a chance to go out to the French Quarter and some jazz, after a tour of the city and visiting the sites where the first levee breaks occurred. We did visit the lower 9th Ward where some of the worst devastation occurred, but also got to see the Musician's Village, being built by Winton Marsales and Harry Connick, Jr., among others. (apologies for any spelling errors). I was most touched by a visit to Beecher Memorial Church which is basically a shell with a roof and some outside walls. Within the church, prayers and wishes have been written on the posts and beams. One day that will all be covered up, but will always be there with those folks.

What an experience!