This is from Lillian McMath, part of the second Crisis Corps group of
about 60 volunteers in the New Orleans area:
Dear Friends and family:
I am finally sending you all a report of things here. You're welcome to
share with anybody - I'm usually just sending to one person in a group
so they can pass it on if they want.
It is really unbelieveable!! Yes, you see a few pictures in the news but
you cannot comprehend the magnitude of this disaster until you drive
for mile after mile of totally ruined houses. It's a bit like seeing the
Grand Canyon for the first time: you have no idea from pictures alone
how vast and overpowering it is. I am working in a Disaster Relief
Center (DRC) set up by Fema where people can apply for Fema money,
trailers and get SBA, Red Cross, Medicare, mold control and all kinds of
help under one roof. Even the Army Corps of Engineers has a booth
where they pass out blue tarps to tack on roofs. One of the first things
you notice when you fly into this area are all the "Blue roofs". My work
is with trailer applications.
People are just starting to come back into this area (it was closed for a
long while and parts still are - National Guard everywhere!) and they
need a place to stay while they work on their houses and Fema is
installing travel trailers for them - slowly!! We have rich and poor -
some pictures of million dollar houses under water to poor folk who
have lost everything.
Lots of Vietnamese who settled way down on the peninsula as fisherfolk
in a climate similar to home- our interpreters are very busy.
We are in Plaquemines Parish - the furthest SE tip of land and hence
one of the hardest hit. You would not believe areas stripped of houses
and other houses piled on top of each other - tractor trailer hanging in a
tree and large commercial fishing boats everywhere: on highways. on
houses, on levees. They estimate it was probably a 50 foot wave surge
from the places things landed. And since the "land" is reclaimed bayou
lots of caskets floted out from their sepulchures. We were lucky to see
it all before they have had a chance to clean up. Some of our group
have been working cleaning out the firehouses down there so they can
get operational (no walls or interiors but a roof and floor) because they
expect a spat of arson as few people had flood insurance but most have
A word about where we stay: they have built huge tent cities using I
guess old circus tents - our first was red and white striped. It holds
4000 people on cots, has over 300 porta-potties, shower trailers,
laundry, wide screen TV, exercize equipment and fabulous food as they
hired the chefs from the inactive cruise ships! Everyone complains
about gaining weight. It is mostly full of the thousands of contractors
down here inspecting houses and helping in other ways. They all brag
about making 6, 8 12, 16K a month!!!! And here we are the little Peace
Corps volunteers wondering what we are doing wrong! But we are
having a blast!!! All the local daiquirie places are back in business
where they have about 16 slurpee machines with different flavors of
daiquiries - Sunday special is $17 a gallon at the dirve-thru. And of
course they/we head out to Bourbon St several times a week. That
area has really become sleazy - no jazz - just Hustler type places unless
you get into the neighborhood bars. Well,we aren't complaining...
Actually the really interesting part of this adventure are the stories we
hear - the horror ones from police who were here before the Natl Guard
came and the sad and happy ones from the survivors. I'll save these for
the next email as this is long enough and I am tired.
Much love to you all, Lillian
11825 Skyline Blvd.
Los Gatos, CA 95033