Hurricane Katrina 2005
In September of 2005 the United States was hit by a very big Hurricane. Thousands and thousands of people were killed and left homeless. I had never seen so many American families left with nothing, and homeless. I knew Angels from Heaven had to do something to help these poor people. I had a small amount of money and many donations in storage ready for shipment. If you remember back a few years ago, I had a raffle for two Daytona Race tickets. The winner was Diane Rattray from New Hampshire. Well long story short, Diane and her family had moved just outside of New Orleans a few years ago. I contacted her and told her I had donations I’d like to send her to help the people in need in the New Orleans area. Without even so much as a question, she said yes! With help from my friend, Steve Powers, we went to our storage trailer at Xpedx Paper Company in Wilmington, MA and off-loaded two large drums and boxes to get ready to ship to New Orleans.
The donations included children’s clothes and lots of balls, toys and stuffed animals. I thought wherever the people were, a toy or ball would be a good donation as it would occupy the children in a homeless center during a time of crises. It was agreed by Diane that the shipment should be made as close to her church as possible as all the roads were closed near her home, although her home and family were ok. Her church, First United Methodist Church in LaPlace, Louisiana, was located about twenty miles from New Orleans.
It was set up as an emergency shelter for the Red Cross workers who would sleep and eat there during this emergency. The Red Cross workers were working 12 to 14 hour shifts so sleep and a good meal from the church was very important. Everything was shipped from Boston the next day, but as close as UPS was able to take them was 50 miles from the church. It took five days for everything to arrive.
Diane and the First Methodist Church members finally had all the donations from Angels from Heaven and were busy sorting everything and getting it ready to distribute.
Because this disaster was very large, and the Red Cross workers were working so hard, I felt it important to make sure the workers continued to have a good meal waiting for them at the church when they returned from each shift so I sent Diane $500 from Angels from Heaven to help with the purchase of food for the church. In all, Children are Angels from Heaven, Diane Rattary, and her family, along with her church, The First United Methodist Church, did everything we could to help the people during this time of need.
Diane worked with the Red Cross for much of this disaster and I will let her tell you in her words what it was like. The letter below was sent to me from Diane.
FIRST, I must thank Ray and all those who support Children are Angels for sending the barrels to this area in our time of need. Everything is greatly appreciated. The people you have helped are many, and I hope you can understand my decision not to take photographs. Most people who have been affected are proud people and did not enjoy taking handouts, for some it was humiliating. The situation was out of their control and that is so hard to accept. My heart aches for their losses, which are too vast to list.
The baby and young children’s clothes were given to families who had moved into other family’s homes right here in town where the church is. They had only taken things for a few days when they left New Orleans, and they were unable to return after the storm since there was nothing to return to. The adult clothes went to a clothing drive being organized by a group of senior high school students in my town. This was their way of doing community service. Everything went to people who had lost clothes to the flood of the storm.
I had arranged for the wonderful people I met through my involvement with the Red Cross to bring the trolls (dolls) to Baton Rouge. That was the closest shelter to us. I asked for them to be given to the doctors and nurses to distribute to the patients. I knew they would cheer up people. With their silly faces and colorful hair they were bound to make someone smile. Well, I got to hear just how much people enjoyed them a few days later. I was helping a delivery driver bring in supplies and she was telling me that she’d just come from the River Center, that’s the center I’d sent the trolls to. She said they were everywhere, on people’s cots, shelves, desks, and best of all, a little old lady in a First United Methodist Church had tied two of them to her wheelchair and referred to it as her troll mobile! Something so silly, so simple, has made that ladies day and mine just hearing about it.
I held on to the stuffed animals; my goal was to get the chance to go down to one of the distribution sites and give them out myself. I found the right person to tag along with and I will never forget what I saw on the corner of Esplanade Avenue in the residential section of the famous French Quarter. This is the area the tourists never see, unless they get lost. This is the very poor area where people have lived their whole lives. The place where you really see the pain of loss that has been endured, and the hope that will keep them cleaning up, day after day trying to rebuild their lives. Even before we got off the interstate, I could see just how vast the destruction was; it truly became a ghost town, and some had begun to refer to it as NO town. The NO being for New Orleans. Dozens of abandoned cars on the median, here that is referred to as the common ground. The cars were completely submerged in the floodwaters. Trash was heaped everywhere and refrigerators lined the curbs waiting for pick up that just could not come, since most of the trash trucks had been flooded too. The ominous “X” on the front of every house, showing it had been checked for occupants.
We reached the site and found the group from the church. I unloaded buckets and watched for kids in the cars. At first there were none, then I saw two approaching the entrance, I got a couple of stuffed animals and walked over to the car, smiled and said hello to the Mom and asked if I could give the kids the toys, she gratefully said yes. The kids reached out for the stuffed animals, the smiles in their eyes made my day. They had most likely lost their things and having something to hug was of comfort to them. Everyone looked so tired, things were not happening very fast then, electricity was sporadic and water still couldn’t be trusted.
The people were there to get water, a lunch and some simple things to start mopping up the mess, their lives had become. They were not only poor people, they were simply people. They had suffered a loss most of us will never even be able to comprehend.
I hope with my words I have painted a picture for you, not just of sadness and destruction, but also of hope that the people have here. The sheer determinations to come, pick up, and literally, dust off and start again.
As you can see Diane has become my Angel from New Orleans. Many thanks to her and her church along with all of you, for all your help and support.