Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ike Day 15

I asked Kevin Watterson, one of our long term Crisis Response staffer's to post his thoughts on the day...

Saturday – we had several volunteers who came from Austin for a second weekend of work here in Galveston. Jobs today included the removal of the contents from Shaya ‘s apartment, the removal of sheetrock and flooring from Mark and Rayetta’s home and the continuation of mud removal and power washing the building dubbed “the Smithsonian” . We gave it that name because of its steam engine and line shaft power transfer assembly, which hangs from the ceiling and is still in operational order according to John Weber, the owner of the former Island Lumber and Millwork circa 1908 building.

The Smithsonian will soon be a bustle of activity as donated items come rolling in by pick-up , van, and tractor-trailer. These items will be given to returning Islanders who need them to restart life. As they come in need of stuff, we want to be there to offer them hope in their immediate need as well as the Eternal Hope only offered through Jesus Christ.

For 2 hours or so, Mark and I joined two of the members of the Austin team who needed help getting the heavy items out of the apartment of a Texas A&M Grad student named Shaya. She had just moved into her apartment a few weeks before Hurricane Ike hit, and hadn’t even gotten her things unpacked from the move before Ike came to visit. Ike was not a friendly house guest. Her 1st floor apartment had 3 feet of water in it, which ruined almost all of her meager possessions including her car . She had parked it at a friend’s house in hopes that it would be safer there. It had more water in it than her apartment had so it is a total loss as well. We carried out her sofa, her water logged mattress and box spring and her now rusted bed frame. When we tried to remove her dresser, it fell apart into small pieces. We were able to salvage her top 2 drawers and the clothes that were in them, and a few pieces of jewelry and glassware. The rest of her things are now in a heap near the apartment complex dumpster, waiting to be hauled off to the landfill.

We drove by the landfill today, and it is already 4-5 stories high. The newspaper article I read today said that there are expected to be 120,000 mattresses (approximately 3 per household) piled in amongst the 1.5 million cubic yards of debris. A small dumpster can hold 3 yards of trash.

One of the images that hit me particularly hard today was the sight of a debris hauler with stuffed animals attached to the grille of his truck, and more lining the side of the container he was hauling. How many kids don’t have their favorite stuffed animal anymore? How many households were represented by these displaced symbols of love and security? How many more will be attached to his truck in the weeks and months that follow?

At Mark and Rayetta’s home, the debris has yet to be picked up. The pile there is 6 ft high and covers all of the front yard near the street in front of their 3 bedroom rancher. We removed the contents yesterday and were taking out all of the sheetrock on the walls up to the ceiling today. The pile of debris grows ever larger with each trip of the wheelbarrow. The hardwood floors had buckled severely, and there was no saving it. It too will be added to the ever rising piles of rubble.

Driving around the island is becoming almost more than the mind can conceive and comprehend. The piles of possessions, clothes, furniture and unsalvageables on every street cover the now brown yards and make the sidewalks impassable. It’s like driving through a never ending landfill. The smells are potent, the pain is deep and the uncertainty for some is overwhelming.

My brightest spot all day was when Officers Martin and Horton showed up at the church to sign their requests for work to be done at their homes. The Police and other first responders have been so busy that they have not been able to work at cleaning out or gutting their own homes. They are relying on help from others to get that job done. For me to hear their stories of slogging through thigh deep water to check out their homes after the waters receded somewhat and to have the chance to see that spark of hope in their eyes knowing we are here to help them, and that we, the church care for them even if they haven’t ever attended Galveston Bible Church put the other depressing scenes of the day in Perspective for me.

Several of us gathered around them and prayed for them asking God specifically for the volunteers that are needed to gut their homes so they can move on to the next stage of recovery. Could you be that answer to prayer? God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.

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