Skip to comments.Thoughts on Surviving Katrina
Posted on 09/03/2005 8:16:44 AM PDT by sionnsar
Some sixteen years ago, Hurricane Hugo (Category 4) visited Charleston, SC.
We did not experience nearly the scale of devastation Katrina has produced in New Orleans and along the Gulf coast, but there were those in the diocese who did experience 28 foot storm surges, the loss of everything, severe property damage, and just generally being traumatized. Overall, our experience was not nearly on the same scale (square mileage wise) for destruction and just plain tragedy. These thought are offered as some of my observations from that time. Most of this will probably apply best in situations where some housing remains.
1. Right now, fingerpointing doesnt help. There should be a time for no-holds barred super critical reflection later on. Now, as has been said here, is the time for mobilization .
2. Even with our hurricane, it took three to four days before significant aid started kicking in and our situation was mild no firing at rescue folks or 50% of a large city underwater.
3. Many folks began funnelling aid though the congregation where I served as assistant (St. Pauls Summerville, SC). This was terrific but also a little difficult because some of the items sent were not really appropriate for our situation, i.e. clothing. If you are sending supplies,pay careful attention to what people say they actually need. Plus, we were in a daze along with the rest of the community and not really thinking clearly. We eventually figured out what we needed to be doing and were able to get to work. It is hard to describe the absolute sense of unreality and disorientation that sets one literally cannot think.
4. There is an extremely high rate of burn-out for clergy - something like 80% leaving their cures within two years after a disaster (from Church World Service ) BTW, someone be sure to get them to talk with the clergy as soon as you can gather people. They were so very helpful to our group - giving us a crash course in PTSD, dealing with survivors guilt, as well as with the terrible grief and anger that comes with this kind of disaster.
5. At the risk of sounding self-serving, I want to offer the following. In those communities where the priests/rectors are still present, try to make sure that someone goes, at the very least, who will throw a tarp over the roof or board up some of his or her windows if need be. The clergy feel absolutely driven to account for all of their members and to help those in the most dire circumstances.Stress doubles and triples if you ar worrying about your own family and home while trying to care for others. Parishioners who are able can help by making sure their priests home is not sustaining continuing damage. If the home cannot be saved, offer to help secure their goods, help their family get out of town to somewhere that feels a little more normal. This also goes for the homes and families of police and other law enforcement groups.
6. Consider pairing up physically lost and damaged congregations with others around the country for help with getting furnishings the struggle over getting insurance money to rebuild takes a pretty long time. Even furnishings like communion ware, vestments, fair linens, etc., prayerbooks and hymnals can go a long way. And make you have a secure place to store these once they start coming in. Partnerships for rebuilding can help those insurance/construction dollars stretch and when people can get together, wonderful relationships form.
7. I cannot emphasize enough how depressing and disheartenng it is to live in a destroyed landscape - even if you have water and electricity. Try to find some way of giving your clergy, youth group, and anyone one else you can, the opportunity to be out of the physical landscape for even a long weekend. It is amazing what difference it can make to see heathy trees.
8. ERD (PBFfWR) sent $50,000 which went into a community pool to set up temporary shelter for those left homeless and those who needed food. This later sequed into an ongoing inter-denominational minstry for the homeless and hungry in our community.
9. Hugo was a great leveler for our us. Towns, cities and communities often seem to put their most squalid housing in places where the eye does not usually fall (just being descriptive, Maam). When the trees were leveled, those places and those needs came into view in a way that no one could deny.
As I mentioned above, there will and should be time for reflection and blame assessing, but it doesnt help to do any of this while the crisis is in full swing. In another 7 to 10 months, the immediate crisis will have passed (God willing) and the long painful work of rebuilding will begin. Lots of time in there for sorting out who shoulda done what and when.
Also, and at the risk of being repetitious, very few folks who are living through the crisis will be thinking clearly. This doesnt mean, however, that its OK to make significant decisions without them. Also, PTSD is very real and the victims will need to tell their stories over and over and over again. It will be a long time before they will gain a sense of a new normal, but, the good news is that it does come finally.
Every September, I am reminded of our encounter with a Cat-4 hurricane when we pray the Collect attached to Proper 20 - Grant us, O Lord, not to mind earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to cleave to those that shall abide; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayers being offered up for all of those affected. May God give you peace in the midst of this terrible time.
The Rev. Jennie Olbrych is a priest of the diocese of South Carolina
I was in Charleston three years after Hugo and there were still signs of the destruction, with rebuilding and repair still incomplete on some of the large waterfront homes.
For surviving disasters, I offer up the following.
Love them, or hate them, but the Mormon (of which I am not one) credo of having a one year's emergency supplies on hand should be emulated.
Unfortunately, the enemy refuses to sleep. Right now, they are aiming their guns at the President. The churches are next, regardless of how faithfull we are to respond.
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