Sunday, May 24, 2009
By Tristan Thunderbolt Herkimer - Educational Theatre Programs
It happened August 25th, 2005. A wall of 145 mph wind, 30 miles wide hit Louisiana and Mississippi...three and half years later the horror remains in pockets along the Gulf Coast. We gathered in New Orleans and drove 90 minutes to Biloxi, Mississippi. I had volunteered last year after my ex wife, Nancy sent me a photo through her phone of her home completely gone and shows just how strong Katrina was. It broke my heart. I felt totally helpless.
Nancy's voice cracked as she told me what has happened to her new home. I choked back the tears as I tried to comfort her. When Kaiser said that they were going to send people down to Mississippi I signed up and by the blessing of earth I was chosen to go in January 2007.
This is my second time here in Biloxi. I see great progress in this Gulf. I also see lingering memories of the damage of Katrina. I see cement slabs where homes once stood. I see frames of homes that belonged to a family now without walls. I see ghosts. I see the loss that this community endured. I see in the eyes of the people that live here a desire to keep this community alive, and southern hospitality is alive and well.
Sunday was a special day for me. I saw the HOPE in the eyes of those volunteers of Kaiser Permanente. One by one as they marched off the planes, loading up and heading to Biloxi. I was the first to take our first five volunteers and I drove the scenic route, through Waveland, Mississippi, where the eye of the storm hit. As I drove through the neighborhood, they were able to see first hand what Hurricane Katrina has done to this beautiful Mississippi coast. We had pulled over and took off our shoes and walked along the white sandy beach before heading to camp. That was soothing in the location of America's worst natural disaster, and yes, there may be ghosts that linger, reminding us that we should never forget Katrina.
I’m proud to be part of team Kaiser Permanente *(I"m wiping a tear from my eye). Thank to everyone at Kaiser - Community Benefit, Executive Team and special shout to the folks at Educational Theatre Programs in Oakland California and to my loving wife giving me the wings to fly. I am one lucky guy.
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