09/07/05 Dallas Helps!
We received our first call from the State of Texas, Wednesday
A group totaling 19 people from New Orleans had taken refuge in a
Hampton Inn. We didn't realize it at the time, but not only had
hundreds of thousands of lives from the Gulf Coast
been changed, but here in Dallas tens of thousands
lives would be touched and also changed forever by the
devastation and tragedy brought by Hurricane Katrina.
As mental health caseworkers, we
were to be part of the first responders to
assist the evacuees from New Orleans here in Dallas. We
picked up the people from the hotel and had them at Reunion even before
the Red Cross had set up.
From that point on working through the disaster relief
plan put in place would be best described as ordered
chaos. Nothing terribly went wrong and nothing went really smooth. I
guess that's how it is in such a situation of this magnitude.
Everyone doing their
best to help, yet a little overwhelmed by the shear numbers.
It took two days to get them seen through the medical units outside
Reunion Arena. It was
hard on them sitting outside in the heat waiting to seethe doctors. The crowd at
first was easily handled and then as the day wore on
and the news got out to people staying in hotels, it was obvious
Reunion was not going to be adequate.
The next two days saw the relief operation move
forward, and a true Medical Triage at the
Convention Center was set up and once this was accomplished, the scope
of what the medical/mental health professionals and caseworkers faced
was daunting. It was hard not to be
affected, in some cases impossible,
by our neighbors stories of survival as those Dallas received were from
the Superdome, New Orleans Convention Center and I-10
The one story that still hasn't left me and might never leave
me, was one from a Veteran. He said that when
the levee broke, he was in waist deep water within 15
minutes. Grabbing his small johnboat, he picked
up his neighbor . For
the next three days and nights, he went around picking
up people from rooftops and taking them to higher ground. He was
haunted by the screams of those who trapped in their attics but
those cries slowly died away by the second night. What
stuck in his mind the most at this moment, was on the
third day when many people had given up hope for any
relief and rescue, with a full boat of people rowing to
higher ground, mothers on their rooftops with their babies would try to
toss them into his already overcrowded boat in hopes of saving them.
On Sunday, I escorted our new neighbors to Friendship West Baptist
Church to attend services. One young man walked out, his anger at God
too much for him to sit still and listen to a sermon of hope.
how long his and the anger of others would last or if it would ever
subside. Many feel
abandoned by both God and Government.
Since September 1, many medical/mental health professionals and
caseworkers have worked 12-14 hours days everyday to stabilize the
situation here in Dallas. There aren't
enough words to describe their acts of compassion,
strength and professionalism during this crisis.
Last night, instead of going home, I checked into a hotel to try to just
get away for a while and have a good cry. The landscape of our America
changed Monday, September 29,
2005 for all of us, for all time.
James K Waghorne - President
Dallas Homeless Neighborhood Association