Message 2 / Day 2 October 17

The drive in to New Orleans was somewhat sobering, lots of damage, most notably to roofs and walls of homes and buildings, debris everywhere, abandoned cars and boats along the road, billboards at 45 degree angles, the roof of the Super Dome as we saw on TV. As we left the interstate, the damage became more apparent. There was no electricity, street lights weren’t working, very little traffic, cars abandoned. What struck us at the major intersections were all of the signs for debris removal and teardown of homes. Most structures are still standing but are in horrible repair. We are also struck by how uninhabited the area is, very eerie.

We arrived at our first site in East New Orleans where we were to replace another team for two days and give them rest, however, they didn’t want to leave, so we called Dr. LeBlanc and were diverted to St Bernard Parish. After a 15 minute drive on down the freeway, we exited into an area even more desolate. We were one of three or four cars on the road. Building after building had windows blown out, roofs damaged anywhere from losing tiles to complete collapse; refrigerators, cars, boats, and debris in the roads, on the roofs, in the trees; car lots with all the cars still there but covered in mud, some crushed others whole. It was so quiet, no people, animals, or birds.

We then arrived at what was the “new” WalMart. There were various large tents with plywood signs pointing people to Disaster Relief. The driveway into what is referred to as Tent City passed the only functioning gas station we’ve seen. FEMA, Red Cross, Insurance adjusters, Billy Graham Assn. are among the inhabitants of this city. The parking lot is patrolled by military. We were shown where to park the RV by Chief Officer Pettie, grabbed a quick lunch from the lunch line, then grabbed a few chairs and set up clinic. We had no tent to work under but were greatful for the low humidity and mid 80’s temperature. Even before we were ready, we had people lining up to be seen. By the end of the day we had seen 75 patients in 3 ½ hours.

The stories were the same but everyone different. The people who had left were crushed when they returned to see how totally destroyed their homes were, maybe one or two items of value could be salvaged, homes filled with mud, furniture and belongings covered in mud and stacked against doors and windows as they tried to follow the water out of the homes. Those who had stayed told of water filling their homes in 4 minutes. The pastor of the local church said the entire church was flooded in 11 minutes. We were told that the wall of water 5 miles away was at 35 feet. By the time it hit St Bernard Parish, the whole area was under 11 feet of water. It then reflooded with Rita to about 7 feet. Those who stayed had harrowing stories of survival; a man saving his wife by grabbing her ponytail; crawling into the attic as the water lapped at their feet, and the stories always ended with “We lost everything”

We’re so happy to be here and giving a listening ear and providing medicine and a smile and sometimes a prayer to a very greatful people.