My sister, niece, Eric and I checked in at the Community Church with Jen, who I learned later was a member of the Sabine Pass Coast Guard. The entire Coast Guard unit at Sabine Pass TX, had evacuated to Jasper to help out, as they expected the storm to hit them pretty hard. I later learned that the Coast Guard connection came through the pastor of Community Church, Lisa Ellermann, whose husband is a member of the Coast Guard. The Sabine Pass crew had many of their boats in the parking lot, and had all of their family members with them. They wanted to do what they could to help out in the aftermath of the storm.
We got our room assignments, and it was going to be tight. My sister, niece, Eric and I were slated to be in one room, along with my sister’s two cats from hell, and my sister-in-law’s cat. I’m not a cat lover, nor do I play one on TV..<g>…this was going to be a long evacuation..LOL. My brother, sister-in-law, and another fireman and his wife were assigned to our second room. However, we really didn’t expect my brother and sister-in-law to leave the fire station — I assumed they would probably stay there for the duration, and Bob, the other fireman, works full-time at the wastewater treatment plant, and the city had made provisions for them to stay there for the duration. But, we set up a room for them just in case.
We immediately got assigned mattress duty, which meant that we were taking mattresses from the sanctuary of the church into individual rooms. Sarah, my niece, expertly showed us the best way to carry the mattresses (on our backs) to the various rooms. The Coast Guard then made the decision to fill every empty container (trash cans, coolers, etc.) with water for flushing toilets, washing dishes, etc. after the storm hit. The church had several little red wagons that we used to fill the containers, and it was during this job that I met 10-year old Rachel, the daughter of one of the Coasties, as the Coast Guard crew came to be known. I was ineptly trying to fill and move these very large containers with water, and Rachel made several great suggestions on how to do it more effectively. I told her that was why she got paid the big bucks..LOL
Rachel was true trooper during this ordeal. She went around the building and created a map noting who what in what room, and then wore a sign saying, "Hi! My name is Rachel, and I’m here to help!" You just gotta love a kid with this much enthusiasm…she was a joy to be around.
By early afternoon I was growing hungry, and followed my nose to the kitchen, where Joan was cooking up red beans and rice. Joan was a Katrina evacuee who wasn’t able to return to her home in New Orleans (the roof was missing from her home) and Pastor Lisa had permitted her and her daughter to remain at the church and help out. Joan is a lovely mother of 15 with amazing stories to tell and who makes the best bread pudding I’ve ever had in my life. She says she got the recipe while working in a restaurant owned by a member of the New Orleans mob…:).
The Coastie wives got assigned to kitchen duty, and I also got to meet Natalie (Rachel’s mom), Tara (whose husband had been shipped to Corpus Christi for the storm), and Kelly (who had her hands full with her 8 month old son). They were just amazing people that I would have never had to privilege to know had I not had to evacuate.
Joan and Tara fed us a great meal of red beans and rice and sausage and bread pudding. Pastor Lisa then called a group meeting so that we could see who was in charge and learn about what was going to happen when the storm hit. Earlier in the day, the Coast Guard had determined what wall was the structure-bearing wall and had named that area the "safe wall". We were instructed that during the night, should the church be breached by the storm, that we should evacuate to the safe wall and await further orders (notice how I’m picking up on this military jargon <g>). Eric then volunteered to be laundry boy and man the washers and dryers for anyone who wanted to drop off laundry.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening in the back room doing laundry for the Coasties (I’ll refrain from saying who wears the Speedo thong underwear <g>) and hanging out talking with Joan and Tara and others. This area was the youth area, and the church had set up couches and pool tables and fooz ball tables and arcade video games. It was here that I met Pastor Lisa’s dad, David Berkheimer, of the Community Church in Orange, www.communitychurchorange.com. It turns out that Pastor David lives in the same neighborhood as Eric, and at one time had lived just a few doors down from where Eric now lives. It’s a small world, isn’t it?? Pastor David and his new wife engaged in several killer games of pool while Eric and I visited with other evacuees.
The Coastie wives fixed dinner, having roasted 26 frozen chickens that had been donated, so we had a great chicken dinner later that night. That was our last warm meal at the shelter….
Note–All the photos in the hurricane section of this blog are courtesy of KJAS Radio, www.kjas.com in Jasper. While I didn’t take them, I’m using them to illustrate the kinds of things I saw during Hurricane Rita.
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