Sunday March 5, 2006
This morning BonaResponds volunteers went to Mass at their respective sites before heading out to do work. After some lunch, it was time to get down to business. Sledgehammers and pry bars in hand, BonaResponds was finally in action!
Bay St. Louis
The BonaResponds crew here has about 20 members, who set out to Diamondhead, Miss., to do some debris removal. It was their job to gather the wreckage from the woods and bring it within 15 feet of the street so that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) workers can come and pick it up.
As they removed beds and bathtubs from the woods and electrical boxes from the trees, they finally understood the wrath of Hurricane Katrina.
Jenny Ackers, a sophomore from Brant Beach, N.J., talked about her first time out on the job and what she was experiencing. “I think it’s worse than I expected,” Jenny explained, “because it looks like the hurricane just happened yesterday. No one has touched these woods and it’s obvious because there are clothes still in the trees, bathtubs, cabinets -- pretty much everything that is in a house is in the woods.”
Jenny said her group has been cleaning up the woods around the houses. Jenny talked with one woman who told her that the water rose to a depth of about 15 feet in her area and that winds reached around 150 mph. The Diamondhead resident said she found pieces of her house over a half a mile away.
BonaResponds volunteers only worked for half of a day, but accomplished quite a bit, said Jenny. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress,” she said. “It looks a thousand times better than when we got here. I thought it would take a week just to clean up the one section we did, but we’ve done it in about 3 hours. I’ve only been here one day and already I feel like I’ve helped out someone.”
Father Peter Schneible is also at the Bay St. Louis site with Jenny. He explained how the people they are helping have been so thankful and supportive. The people who live in this area truly appreciate the efforts of BonaResponds.
Father Peter explained, “The people of Diamondhead said it was very important for us to be here just because they get discouraged sometimes and when they see someone else come and help them it helps to pick their spirits up and they’re ready to go again. So when we get done I’m sure they’ll be there to pick us up. They’ve been doing that already.”
This afternoon the 100 members of BonaResponds at Long Beach set out to several different sites to do work. There was no job untouched, as this BonaResponds group painted, dug for a woman’s valuables, cleared debris and cut down ruined trees.
Maggie Mertz, a senior from Chili, N.Y., was struck by the devastating reality that she saw. “Actually driving down the road and seeing the houses is unreal,” Maggie said. Her favorite moment here was talking with the woman she was doing work for, who was so grateful BonaResponds was helping out. “I loved hearing her stories and just being able to really help someone.
Kim Phillips, a junior from Farmington, NY, was also out with Maggie cutting down ruined trees and doing repair work. There was more destruction than Kim expected, but seeing how much they could accomplish in a short time was inspiring. Kim wants to meet even more people and help out as much as possible. “If you didn’t think you could help out, you have no idea how much a small group can do.
Many of the sights BonaResponds volunteers have seen have been overwhelming as they try to take in the immeasurable disaster that Hurricane Katrina did. But these emotional reactions only encourage everyone to work even harder, and the thanks and appreciation given to us from the residents of the area have been equally inspiring. People have randomly stopped us while working, out to eat and even just walking around to say thank you and it’s moments like this that make being here worthwhile.
SBU Responds to Katrina
Countdown! | On the Road | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5