Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Day 1

Day 1

The New Waveland General Hospital
Photo credit: Subkommander Dred

Waveland, Mississippi
September 23, 2005

After hastily pitching my tent earlier this morning, I was able to get a few hours sleep. Although it was hardly restful, it was enough to recharge my batteries to some degree. I woke up about 5 am, and spent the hour making coffee on my camp stove and reorienting and securing my tent with additional tarps and stakes. I had thought of using the truck as a windbreak so as to prevent the tent from being blown away by the gale force winds we are expecting soon. The relief operation here has been scaled back for the next few days until Rita fully declares herself, but I think our friends further to the west of us will get the worst of it.
As a matter of fact, there have been a number of tornado warnings in this area over the course of the day. And this has caused a bit of a freakout amongst one of the comrades, particularly in light of the fact that his bus wouldn’t start and he was effectively stuck with the rest of us. We spent a very tense morning listening to reports of tornado warnings all over the immediate area. I thought we may have seen the start of a funnel cloud pass over, but even if this were not the case, the clouds did have a very ugly and business like feel to them. Fortunately, no calamities came to pass, but this did not prevent me from putting several large holes in my tent in the mad scramble to get ready to move. That being the case, I managed to scrounge some large tarps which I’ve strung from a couple of trees, and slung a hammock underneath. It’s not near as waterproof as my tent, but it has the advantage of being cooler (as in temperature, as well as overall hipness). Although the tent was watertight, it was also hot and stuffy, sort of like being housed in Saran Wrap. I’ve taken the liberty placing several wooden pallets (they are all over the place here, scattered about the parking lot to and fro, from which all manner of cargo had been delivered upon) on the ground underneath to work as a rudimentary floor. Of course, I did all this in the middle of several driving rain storms, and have been walking about soaked to the bone all day long. After a certain point, I don’t even try to stay dry anymore. I mean, what’s the point. Fortunately, a colleague of mine had contributed not only funds to this effort, but several bags of freshly laundered and more importantly DRY bathroom towels. At first I had been dubious about taking them, but it turns out that when going into an environment with heavy wind, rain and flooding, the prudent comrade takes along dry towels.
I had my first meal with the folks from the Rainbow Family while here in Waveland. There are a couple of buses (old school buses) from Wisconsin and North Carolina respectively. The folks from Wisconsin are a bunch of organic farmers, and they are also VERY good cooks. The chow was hot and welcome, and I fear that I shall dine on many a meal before I come upon one so well prepared as that which I have dined at the New Waveland Café. The kitchen is inside a large green army tent, complete with large burners, propane stoves and griddles. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the meals were free, as we were all paying a price to be there for that effort. But I never had to worry about being fed while I was there. The intelligence on the food has proven to be correct. Our operatives have done well.
On the bus from Wisconsin was painted a couple of cows and the saying “Don’t Panic, it’s Organic” painted in the side. There was another, smaller bus from Wisconsin painted green and with “Family Farm Defenders” posted along the side. The last vehicle belonged to a cat named Arjay. His was a large former school bus, the one that had neglected to start. A number of the folks were sleeping in them, along with a few campsites, such as my own, spread around the perimeter of the parking lot. Mind you, this is a strip mall in the middle of suburbia, a style of life and architecture that is of the sort that has destroyed so much of our country. Mini Marts, Diners, Porno shops…all of it completely trashed and abandoned. Almost like “The Road Warrior” only with a lot more water and no gas.
So far, I have met Jerome, a happening brother who knows how the play the drums, and Clovis, who comes off a northern good ol’ boy but has a good head on his shoulders, and who can also really cook! I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting Amber, a beautiful young comrade who’s been working hard at the New Waveland Café for several weeks now. She’s tough, she’s strong, she’s smart and she’s a babe! She is one hip sister.
Today I also met several of the local folks, and to hear them tell you what’s happened to them over the past several weeks is incredibly sad. One older man named Reynaldo had a house on the local bayou, and was flooded out when Katrina hit. He managed to move back in a few days ago, only to have to leave again this morning when the bayou flooded again, leaving a foot of water in his house. Another guy had his house and business destroyed, and his wife almost drowned when she refused to leave their house. So many people have lost so much here, and it’s obvious from the amount of damage this area has received that their lives will never be the same. A wall of water about 25 feet high rolled through this town (Waveland is right on the coast, and the beach is less than a mile from where I am) destroying everything that got in its way.
The fire department (what’s left of it) is located directly behind me. The fire station was destroyed early on, with only two engines and a couple of large dome tents for quarters. I ran into a couple of cops from Virginia shortly after I arrived last night, and their accommodations aren’t much better. One was a state trooper named Jason and the other a game Warden, whose name escapes me at present. As it happens, they were running low on batteries for there torches, and since I had thought to bring a large assortment of various batteries, I was able to help them out to some degree.
It is hard to look out around me and not cry at the incredible disaster that these people have lived through. I came here to do a job, and I hope I am able to contribute in some way to make their lives a little bit more bearable. A lot of the volunteers have been here for over 2 weeks now, and a large number of them will be heading home soon, including a contingent from Texas that is now eager to get back home and take care of things after Rita makes landfall.
I was able to travel around the city today. During daylight hours the curfew is lifted and there are no travel restrictions. Arjay, 7Song and Lauren with a K (yes, that is what I think she said) hopped into my truck we toured what was left of the town. Our first stop was the mobile hospital set up by Carolina Medical Center. It was quite an operation, indeed, the finest in mobile acute and emergency care facilities. But alas, it was also very crowded and very busy, just like any other large emergency department. That part never changes. It was then I decided that I would best be able to accomplish the most good by staffing the med tent at the New Wavelend Café as a triage/battalion aid station. Hopefully, if I could tend to some of the more minor stuff, it would help take the heat off Med Center 1. After that, we headed over to the senior center to inquire as to their needs. Fortunately, things seemed to be under control there, in the capable hands of a matronly woman whose name escapes me at present.
We spent the rest of that day trying to stay dry with little success and trying to put up a large tent. If you are interested in a good laugh, try imagining a bunch of folks standing around in the wind and rain, struggling and failing against the elements in the task of erecting a tent. Later in the evening, I had my first patient, a young woman who had fallen face first into a wooden platform, sustaining a nasty laceration the bridge of her nose. This woman was a truly hardy and tough sort, and that paired with her natural beauty and good hearted nature was enough to make me follow her to the gates of hell itself. Fortunately, no such duty was required, as thorough wound irrigation with saline and a dressing with dermabond was enough to repair the injury. I am anticipating a very good cosmetic result from this treatment.

Your most humble servant,

Subkommander Dred


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