Saturday, September 10, 2005

Amongst the horror and suffering ...

Amongst the horror and suffering ...

There are some great stories of how people have coped

I have had enough of all of the negative press - all the finger pointing, blame-making and threats of legal action.

Fortunately here in Mississippi it seems that the local press, at least, have realised that such coverage was making people feel worse. Now they are concentrating on the more positive side of things - where power is coming on, what stores, schools, factories and other employers are getting back to normal etc. etc. But, perhaps most importantly, they are also concentrating on the energy and determination of the locals to rebuild and make the coast better than ever! Yes many people have lost everything, and many are suffering badly, but most are also looking to a better, brighter future.

So I want to share with you the story of how two friends of mine pulled together once the storm was over, how they helped neighbours, friends and tenants (they own a number of houses and apartments that they rent out), and how they made sure life was as good as normal during the time of adversity.

Ronny and Bill were brave (stupid!) enough to stay in Gulfport during the storm. They live about half a mile north of the railroad tracks that seem to have saved so much of the coastal towns from much worse devastation than they suffered. In fact they live very close to the house we own in Glufport, pictured earlier.

When the storm was finished and they realised the scale of the damage locally, the first thing they did was tour their various homes and check on tenants. Realising that many had left, and others were severely affected by the storm (one house was almost crushed by a huge oak tree), and that power was off and likely to be off for a while, they emptied everyone's fridges and freezers, and took all the food back to their own place where they had a generator and knew they could keep the food fresh indefinitely. Having done that, they then arranged to deliver food to each occupied home every day until power and food stores were returned to a degree of normality (by the way, why on earth is every tv and radio reporter, politician and soldier in the USA now saying normalcy instead of normality?).

They then spent the next few days tidying up their own yard, the yards of the various homes and fixing roofs. In fact Bill helped me get the tarpaulin onto our house in Gulfport, and in return I helped him do the roof on one of his apartment blocks. Good job I am not scared of heights ... just scared of falling off roofs ;-)

At mealtimes, Ronny cooked food not only for himself and Bill, but also for several of their neighbours - and me when I was about. Ronny is quite a cook, and can do amazing things with a propane grill!

While doing all of that, they spent time thinking in the evenings ... "how can we make this more bareable?". They had a small amount of spare power from the generator, so they could run fans in their bedroom at night in place of air conditioning. Like many houses in the USA, they have access to a personal water supply in the form of a well. Bill got some plumbing supplies and switched the house over to using the well water instead of city water. The water was not drinkable, but was fine for showers and washing clothes, so they used the generator to pump and heat water, and (oh bliss!) flush the toilet! Their neighbours got wind of this and pretty soon they had a parade of visitors every night taking a shower before bedtime!

They had reached this stage by the time I first went down to Gulfport last saturday - 5 days after Katrina hit. Ronny mentioned to me that the first thing he wanted to do when the power came back was watch a movie. I realised that we could do that right then. At home I have a big screen outside, and we use our data projector to play DVD movies on it after dark - see the picture below.

All I needed to do was bring the projector, a DVD player and my PC speakers down to Gulfport and we could watch a movie right there on their driveway. We borrowed a white sheet from a neighbour who was more than happy to lend us one in return for the food and showers. As you can see in the other pictures below, we managed to get the whole thing working just fine :-) Sorry for the bad quality of these pictures!!

It later transpired that the City of Gulfport was asking people to restrict the amount of water they put into the over-stressed (destroyed!) sewer system. But I am hope they would forgive desparate people their little luxuries ...

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