Monday was the most intense day to date. We worked on two homes in an area which would probably not have been flooded but for the release of water from the reservoirs. I am sure it was a tough decision to do the release and it was a decision nobody ever thought they would have to make. Notice of the release was just hours and homes were inundated for 12 days. The water just receded. The folks we worked with today had never been flooded and had no relevant insurance to speak of. Smell, or more accurately, stench, came into play today. We are getting pretty good at walking in and knowing if there is still standing water somewhere in the room, say in a drawer or cabinet. At the first house, the owners were cordial but a little dazed. Think about it. A group of complete strangers, enters your home, throws everything out and then asks you to make on the spot decisions about what to keep and what goes in the mound of debris on the curb. One of our team brought me the birth certificates of their kids. It drives home the personal nature of what we are doing.
I do have to brag on the team. Getting 18 people to the site can be a challenge, much less working as a team. But Monday, they worked like a Swiss watch. It wasn't just a case of hauling out sodden and moldy materials. It was how they did it. Team members helping team members and solving on the spot the challenges you encounter in such a project. I think the scope of what they are doing is sinking in and they understand how much the homeowners need a hand. It was a privilege to work with them.
Tuesday was focused on completing our heavily flood damaged home that we started yesterday. The temp. is rising which hasn't made it uncomfortable, but has unfortunately raised the stench level from all the debris piled along the streets. We spent until early afternoon removing the remaining drywall, sweeping out water, which is still oozing, flooding one room and spraying the house with mold retarder. Very focused on having everyone check for even minor cuts and nicks. The New York Times had an article yesterday on the area in which we have been working, noting the prevalence of e coli and staph. We treat all wounds on the spot.
In the afternoon, we returned to our first area . The passage of four days has resulted in a remarkable change. Debris is being moved, cars have been hauled away and there is a sense of order being brought to the disorder.
After dinner last night we took all members of the Wayside program to a nearby AA meeting. When I picked them up, they were a revved up group. They get a lot out of the meetings and asked if they could return on Thursday.
Wednesday we split the crews, one going to complete work at an earlier home, the other to new projects. Temperature continues to climb, but it has not been uncomfortable. The city has starting to return to its routine. Interstates are almost all open and roadblocks are coming down at a fast rate. The team received a new moniker today from a resident.... 'The Killer Bees'. Corky asked why that name. He replied 'because of the way you just swarmed into my house'. He gushed his appreciation and thanks In the evening we hauled everybody to a nearby laundromat for a big night out. At the close of the day, some of the team joined the indoor volleyball league at the church, playing with 60+ others in several courts. For guys who are generally considered as burdens on the system, it has been a unique experience to be seen as helpful, important and part of a community.
Attached is my favorite pic to date. It was a scene from the front yard of the home of Bonnie who is in the middle. Her friend, Claire, has been helping her shovel out her house. The guy, Nagos, is a member of our team and is originally from Ethiopia. He hit it off with Bonnie, calling her 'Miss Bunny', which took her aback at first, but broke the ice and eventually, as this scene illustrates, made her laugh. They are sitting on an upturned couch we had hauled out of Bonnie's place earlier. As we were taking it out, it oozed black water. This impromptu scene that I ran across, encapsulates our experience in many respects. Bonnie has everything she owned piled behind her on the street. But they are, three people who would never have gotten together otherwise, enjoying a brief human moment together.
Friday, we headed for Galveston for a day at the shore. We had polled the team earlier and about half had never been to a beach. Galveston was pretty deserted, but the weather was great and everyone had a chance to swim and sit in the sun. We closed out the visit with an all you could eat seafood and pizza buffet overlooking the beach.
We returned to the church, loaded up, said our goodbyes and as dark arrived, hit the road for the return home. 16 plus hours later the team was back. During the ride, I heard talk about what the team had observed and who they had met. They also commented they had learned a lot about the people they met and about themselves. Interesting behavior from a group who are labeled by most as felons with little to offer or learn.
We left a group of strangers, unsure what we find and what we could offer. We returned a team, knowing we provided a mixture of brawn and comfort to a diverse collection of folks who needed an extended hand.
See the story as reported on WHAS TV: