Katrina: Eye Of The Storm

NOVEMBER 2005
- Members Jolted From Retirement By Mother Nature - One of the many strengths of our Association is the sense of
comradery that our members share. Whether it be rally together to
support various legislation or carrying for members who have fallen on
hard times, our members are known for coming together.

When
we lost two of our members to the horrific events of September 11,
2001, the Association shared in the nation's sorrow. We not only
reported on the tragedy, but also on the relief efforts conducted in
the aftermath that involved some retirees.

Last
year, when Florida was struck by three successive hurricanes, thousands
of our members living in the Sunshine State were impacted in one way or
another. Some lost a few shingles or perhaps a tree or two, while
others saw their homes completely destroyed, of which we reported
extensively.

This year, members,
living in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, faced a similar
situation when Hurricane Katrina moved up the Gulf of Mexico and made
landfall on August 29.

Even though
the number of our members living in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama
total 74, small in comparison to other sunbelt states, such as Georgia,
North Carolina, and South Carolina, whose combined total is 638, plus
Florida's 5,100, we express the same concern for the possible victims
of Katrina.

By all accounts, it now
appears that Katrina is the worse disaster in our nation's history.
While every hurricane that strikes land wreaks havoc by claiming lives
and destroying property, the wide-spread and severe destruction left in
Katrina's wake was particularly devastating.

Some Unreachable

As
we did last year in Florida, the Association has reached out to those
members who had been living in the direct path of Hurricane Katrina.
The letter, which was mailed within days of the devastation, seeks to
offer support, as well as learn the fate of our members.

Due
to the disruption of basic services, it has been difficult for members
in the effected areas to receive mail. We do hope that when the mail
does catch up with members that they will respond.

We've
heard from a number of members who live inland from the coast and were
not directly impacted by Katrina. However, we've heard little from
members living in New Orleans, Biloxi or Gulfport.

Everyone
knows about the flood in New Orleans where we have four members. We
have two members living in Biloxi and another in Gulfport, two cities
that were more directly hammered by the Category 4 winds.

We did hear from one member who lives in New Orleans, Jim DePagter, a retired UMass Dartmouth professor.

Jim
heeded the Hurricane Katrina warnings and left the city, along with his
daughter Brigit Haylock and her children, two days prior to the flood.

"We
went to Shreveport and hung around for three days. When it became
apparent New Orleans would be off limits for a long time, we drove to
St. Petersburg, Florida where my other daughter Kirstin Miller lives,"
DePagter related in a phone call to our office. "I think we'll be
Kirstin's guests for quite a while."

"My
home is near Tulane University and from what I've heard wasn't reached
by the flood waters. Neither was my daughter's, who lives in the same
area. It doesn't seem that the city is livable, however, at this time.

DePagter,
78, likes New Orleans despite the ever-present flood danger. "It's an
interesting city, with an historic background. We sometimes call it
'Baghdad on the Mississippi', because of scavengers that are out and
about on trash pickup day! But it's still my home," he said.

Another
member, Ann Bachand, a retired Springfield Municipal Hospital nurse,
phoned in from her home in the small town of Luling, Louisiana.

Luling
is about 20 miles from New Orleans, She and her daughter, Donna, her
son-in-law and a nephew were ordered to evacuate. They drove all day
but couldn't find a motel that wasn't filled.

"We
spent the first night on the floor of a Holiday Inn ballroom along with
several other people. They gave us blankets. It was the best they could
do," she said.

The next night they
were in Grayson, Louisiana with no place to sleep. "Some people from
the Grayson Baptist Church noticed our plight... It was like an act of
God. The church had a large mobile home. They were looking for a new
pastor and it was ours for as long as we wanted to stay. They brought
us furnishings, including a large TV, and warm meals every day. Their
kindness was unbelievable."

A week
later, Ann and her family returned to their home in Luling. "It was
fully intact without any major damage," she said. "The electricity and
water were back on that same day we returned. We consider ourselves to
be very lucky after seeing what our neighbors in New Orleans went
through."

Welcome To Massachusetts

Back
home, the big news was Governor Romney's opening of the Cape's Camp
Edwards barracks and facilities to an expected 2,500 evacuees. However,
after 200 bedraggled Louisianans arrived on two Boeing 737's on
September 8 and 9 - that was it.

Residents
of Massachusetts were volunteering by the thousands to assist the
"visitors" who had no clue where they were going when they embarked.

Several
of our members on the Cape contacted the Red Cross or other agencies
only to be told that they would be called if needed. Like most other
volunteers, they were not called.

Sue
Walker, a retired Barnstable teacher, did spend a night with the
evacuees. Walker works for the Community Action Committee of Cape Cod.
She volunteered to stay overnight in barracks set aside for the
families.

"It was the second night.
Four of the barracks were designated for parents with children," she
said. "A group of about 15 adults were sitting outside getting to know
each other. It was between midnight and 3:00 A.M.

"These
were people who stayed in their homes and were the last to be
evacuated. They were taken directly to the airport and were not told
where they were going until 20 minutes before landing.

"It
was apparent that they were very thankful for the warmth and
helpfulness they received since arriving at Camp Edwards. Many
volunteers did not have the opportunity to meet the evacuees. Spending
a night with them was indeed an enlightening experience."

Editor's
Note: In the next edition of the Voice we will have more on Hurricane
Katrina, plus news from our members who were in the path of Hurricane
Rita.

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