My time with Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico near i...

Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico near its peak Category 5 intensity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flooded I-10/I-610 interchange and surrounding...

Flooded I-10/I-610 interchange and surrounding area of northwest New Orleans and Metairie, Louisiana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Up until this point in my blog, I have pretty much talked about the last year and a half of my life due to the TBI. Today I am going to change things up a bit and go a few years back.

When Hurricane Katrina rocked the Gulf Coast on August 29th 2005 the devastation could be seen on the news for days. People from all over the country responded to assist in the devastation and rescue efforts. I was one of the one’s who got to go.

Myself and one other member from my fire department were chosen by the state of PA to aid in the effort. I considered myself lucky to be able to got there to help the people who had lost everything from this storm. I had kept a daily journal of what we had done, but it was missing from my luggage when I arrived home along with a couple of disposable cameras and other items. Was this just someone who thought they needed these items more than me or were they taken on purpose so they could not be shared. I will never know, but I love conspiracy theories so I just threw that statement out there.

I saw a whole lot of things while I was in Atlanta, which was the staging area for the response teams. Most of them were not good things, but I will keep it to a minimum. At this huge convention center people from all over the country were processed through as responders in a day or so and then we sat on our butt for days before we were sent out to our areas of operation. We were in a hotel with one of the most comfortable beds ever awaiting FEMA to put us on the road to help the people who really needed us. It was very frustrating seeing people playing wiffle ball in a convention center because they were so bored after sitting for days awaiting their orders.

Finally our orders were to go to Louisiana and assess fire department damage and what they would need to get back in operation. We were teamed with firemen from other states and our group of 8 was to visit every fire dept. to assess the needs. On our way we stopped at a gas station in Toomsooba Mississippi. There was probably 30 to 40 vehicles in line for fuel, but when the worker saw that we were wearing fire shirts we were sent right to the front so as not to slow our progress to the damaged areas. They had damage there as well, but not near what we were gonna see when we made it to New Orleans.

We started in Baton Rouge. For the area of the state that was not damaged we made phone calls instead of putting hours behind the wheel of a car for no reason. When that was finished we ended up in New Orleans at a fire station called Nine Mile Point. The firemen at this dept. had not been home yet since the day of the storm. Most of these firemen had sent there families west where they had families or somewhere else that they would be safe. These men did not know if they even had a home left to go to. All three doors of this dept. were blown off the front of the building from the storm. It was protected only at night by armed firemen who sat at the front door with weapons to be sure that no one would harm the men sleeping at night. We insisted that these guys go home and check on their homes and take care of anything they needed before they returned. For some of them the fire dept. was their new home because theirs were gone.

There was a cold storage trailer full of ice to be given out when needed to personnel. Ice was more valuable than money at this point. The fire dept. had its flag blown off the pole from the storm which I could not handle being a former veteran. Across the street was a National Guard base so I went over there to see if they had a flag for the dept. I was hoping I would not get shot pulling up to the gate in a Ford Taurus, which was our vehicle given to us for our duties. They gladly gave me a flag and some T-shirts and military socks for the guys across the street in return for some ice for their crews on guard duty at traffic points keeping people out of the city. A big VICTORY for both. Once we were done with our initial duty we stayed assigned to the station for the remainder of our stay. To keep this post from being too long I will continue on the next blog. If you are faint at heart. I would recommend reading it cautiously.

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