Sunday, August 31, 2008

Evacuation complete

Greetings all. Elizabeth here. I’m Jane’s daughter. I just spoke to Mom a few minutes ago and she wanted me to let everyone know that she has safely evacuated herself and the camp to Meridan, Mississippi. She spent the night in a church with many other evacuees. She’s hoping she’ll spend tonight in a trailer with some of the other folks from the PDA camp. She’s very tired, and a tad cranky – but now that she has finally reached safe ground – she’s headed to church. Not to the showers to wash off the 2 days worth of sweat and grime she accumulated during the evacuation. And not to a quiet corner to catch up on much needed sleep. She’s headed to church to thank God for a safe place to ride out the “mother of all storms”. However, she does plan to sit in the back so that no one can smell her.

While she’s living through the chaos of what could turn out to be the next Hurricane Katrina, she wanted me to share with you all some of her experiences during the evacuation. I know she will expound in more detail when she’s rested and has some time to stop and think about it all. So here is Mom’s experience so far, in various short thoughts and observations:

She began the evacuation in the most surreal circumstances. As she and the other PDA staff were packing up the camp and loading whatever they could on to trucks and trailers, they had to periodically stop to get out of the way of the Project Homecoming staff that were unloading trucks and trailers and filling the PDA facility with party favors for a celebration of all the work done over the last three years to rebuild homes in the area after the last hurricane. So while Mom is moving boxes of food out – they are bringing party favors in. While tools are going out – helium balloons are coming in. Out for Gustav. In for Katrina.

Her first stop along the way was to help her friend Jan pack up and join the gang on their way to Mississippi. Jan handles all the logistics for the PDA camps. She lost all of her belongings in Katrina so everything she owns fits in her Honda Accord. And she packed everything. Not just necessities. Everything she owned. She couldn’t bear to lose anything again.

From there, two convoys carrying people, food, tools, and RVs headed to Meridian, Missippi. Three hours north of New Orleans, close to the Alabama border. The trip was slow, as you can imagine. Cars were bumper to bumper. Everyone going the same speed. No one changing lanes. All Mom had to eat yesterday was a jar of peanut butter she threw in the car with her. Whenever she got hungry, she stuck her finger in and scooped out a mouthful. She’s surprised how little food she actually needs to get through the day.

When they reached the church in Meridian, she was told that the only people allowed back once the storm passes will be those that are certified as first responders. Odds are pretty good that the PDA staff will be quickly certified so they can get back and assess the damage. She didn’t give me an estimate of how many people were at the church where she spent the night, but she did say there were a lot of families with children. And therefore a lot of noise. It made it difficult to sleep, which I think is why she’s feeling cranky, but she knows that by the end of the week she will be good friends with all these people and their children.

That’s all the news I have for now. Hopefully, the next posting will be an update from Mom herself – in her own words – once she’s back in New Orleans. If not, I’m sure she’ll continue to give updates through me, so keep checking back periodically.

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