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09/07/05  Dallas Helps!

We received our first call from the State of Texas, Wednesday August 30th.

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 overpass.

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.  I wondered
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






  Ward politics is the Devil's key to the soul of the city council.  It is how some council members got themselves in trouble in the past.  It is the bait that will get others in trouble in the future. 4/6/8