Sunday, October 09, 2005

Open For Business

Open For Business
(Top) Weasel's Motorrad. Photo Credit; Subkommander Dred

(Below) A medical team member lends a hand to raise the main kitchen tent. Photo Credit; Special Agent Rick

Waveland, Mississippi
September 24, 2005

Dear Folks;
Even though it's 3 weeks after Katrina hit, this town is still in very bad shape. The people here are great, and are very appreciative of everything the volunteers have done. We are sharing a parking lot with a Baptist church group from Bastrup, Texas, who have just started returning to the area now that Rita has hit far west of us. Additionally, the 7th Day Adventists and civic groups from around the country are returning with a number of volunteers, such a college students from Maine and Massachusetts as well as Rotarians from Michigan and Shriners from Muncie. They have yet to arrive in any significant numbers, but already many more of the locals have come in today for hot food being served at one of the few bistros around, the New Waveland Café.
I slept fairly well last night in my hammock and tarp shelter. Though it was quite windy and raining buckets at times, fortunately my pitiful quarters lasted through the night and kept me dry and relatively comfortable. I find however that the constant noise of diesel powered generators set up on the parking lot a hundred meters away or so is enough to keep me wide awake despite the significant exhaustion I felt upon going to bed. Fortunately, I had prepared for such an eventuality, and thought to bring along a supply of earplugs, which I put to good use. I also managed to put to good use the needle driver I packed along with my medical equipment, as it proved equal to pulling the damn things out of my ears when I got up in the morning.
Breakfast was hot coffee and 100% organic milk, eggs, bacon and pancakes courtesy of the Organic Valley folks (“Don’t panic! Keep it Organic!” is their watch phrase) and indeed, except for the significant freakout that one comrade experienced yesterday, the panic did not spread and we remained, sitting through the bad weather and waiting to see if we got whacked by a tornado. Fortunately, we weren’t.
Today I was able to open up the medical tent and finally get things organized, up to and including putting up a large sign out front marked
"First Aid" complete with an American flag flying from the top. As it was, the tent, a half cylinder in structure, made of pvc tubing and Tyvek, was crammed to the roof with all manner of supplies. While a few cots were available, there was very little in the way of room in which to take care of patients. Therefore, I spent a good deal of the morning and afternoon clearing out the tent. Stone split earlier this morning, as I am now the capable professional on hand to staff the clinic and he needed to get the hell out of here for a few days for a little rest. One of the folks I’ve met down here, a comrade named Rick, volunteered to help out sort out the medical aid station, and we spent several hours moving boxes and inventorying supplies. Some of it was useful (bandages and dressing supplies, OTC drugs, vaccines) but a lot of it was completely useless. Like the 2 cases of Pap test kits, or the 5 abdominal surgery packs I found lumped with all the rest of not terribly useful items. Rick and I dumped what we thought we could trade into the back of my truck, and headed over to Med Center 1. Fortunately, the SWAT police officer at the gate recognized me from when I stopped by yesterday and called the equipment manager regarding my proposed deal. I was able to barter all of my useless stuff for a significant amount of supplies (splinting material, topical medicines, sterile saline) and returned to the clinic with more suitable provender.
More on Rick. Rick is originally from Florida, and I get the impression that life has been very difficult for him some years now. He showed up here in Waveland a few days ago to see if he could get a job cleaning out houses. In fact, he was on one job a few days ago, hired out to clean out what was left of a mechanic’s garage. Well, to hear Rick tell it, he goes through what was left of this building clearing out debris and pulling out tools when he came upon a large collection of women’s lingerie. You know, garter belts, nylons, that sort of thing. Suddenly, Rick was struck with the vision of a some large, overweight, hairy garage mechanic stripping off his coveralls and wearing only a whalebone leather corset and thigh high stockings. It was enough to make him run out of the building in need of a cigarette to calm his shattered nerves. At least, that is what he told me, anyway.
I have been running on lots of coffee, adrenaline and very little sleep, and no matter how much I do here, I feel like I need to do more. If i'm not working the medical tent, I'm hauling ice or moving supplies or mopping the kitchen floor with gallons of bleach. Everyone here is really helping out, and it makes me proud to be an American and restores by hope that as human beings, perhaps we have some promise after all, seeing how just average people from everywhere have come to this place in time and history to help their stricken countrymen. I sense that this is a moment in a nation’s consciousness where what we do today shapes the future of our society. All too often I have feared that when hard times should come to our land, we would be left to our own devices to survive. We have all learned the hard way that politicians and government officials are not going to make things happen, that it is up to us, as citizens, to make sacrifices and do our part, just as members of the human family have always come together to help one another. It is heartening to my soul to see the actions of my brothers and sisters here today. A lot of them are kids, in their late teens and early 20’s. They could be anywhere else on this planet, hanging out at home playing video games or some other equally worthless pursuit. Instead, they are enduring significant hardship and sacrifice to be here and help out in any way they can. And It’s not just kids, either.
I met a older comrade today by the name of Weasel. He’s a brother of a certain age with white hair and a long white beard, sporting all manner of tattoos on his arms and riding a Kawasaki dual sport that he piloted all the way from the mountains of North Carolina. He’s been down here for the past couple of weeks now, hanging out over at the senior center and helping to clean out elderly folks homes. He is a righteous dude, and I secretly envy his bike.
This afternoon, after I was able to get a small work area in the tent set up, I saw a few minor injuries and administered a dozen or so immunizations. I was also visited by the Mississippi Department of Health in the form of a Paramedic Examiner drafted into service as a facility inspector of sorts. The way he explained it, they were trying to get an idea who has set up shop in their backyard, and I was more than happy to oblige, showing him my credentials and giving a brief tour, such as it was, of the clinic. I was also visited by several engineer/ geek types, all curious to find out just how I was able to keep the medical tent from blowing away. It turns out that this tent was one of several which had been erected in the area, and it was the only one to withstand the winds we had experienced the day before. The structure is one of the few things of a concrete nature we have recieved from FEMA, as it was originally designed and purchased by USAID for use in disaster zones in other countries. Fortunately, the tent was anchored and reinforced along its sides with several thousand pounds of bottled water, stacked up 3 feet high along the outside and effectively pinning the skirt of the tent to the pavement, so as not to allow any significant wind gusts inside to blow it apart. The stacked water also served as a windbreak, and between that and keeping the tent buttoned up tight was what kept it together despite the high winds and rain we had experienced the nigh before.
I was quickly set upon by several very well meaning, studious types, all employee of the tent maker, who were busy taking notes and jotting down diagrams on a clipboard. One of them even had a tape measure and took a number of photos, mumbling to himself obscure load coefficients. They were all very excited and seemed to be in a slightly agitated state, in the way that engineer geek types are known to. I tried to answer their questions as best I could, but I usually find that in situations like that, it's best just to make an excuse and duck out for a cup of coffee at The Tornado Lounge (an army tent previously used as the reserve kitchen tent and now being used as a venue for music, coffee and cold smoothies) which I promptly did. Fortunately, after a few more minutes, they has satisfied their curiosity (for now) and I was able to return to my duties uninterupted.
I should really get to bed soon as tomorrow will probably be a bit busier and hotter than today, so I shall close here. A few weeks ago I would never have thought I would be in a place like this, and now it is hard for me to imagine being anyplace else. Funny how that is.

Your most humble servant,

Subkommander Dred


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