Trip To Pascagoula, Mississippi
My friend Tom had plans to go sailing on his boat in Yankton, South Dakota and I had plans to spend time in my metal shop making progress on some of the projects involved in my Live Steam Locomotive hobby, but this was not to be ...
Tom's wife Cathy called him from church (Celebration Covenant Church, Omaha, Nebraska) to say that a group was going down to Eastlawn United Methodist Church, Pascagoula, Mississippi (map @@@@@) to aid with hurricane Katrina relief efforts. After thinking about it, Tom decided that spending the weekend sailing didn't make sense when so many people were in such desperate need for help.
On Thursday night Tom called me and asked "Do you have any plans for this weekend? How would you like to go out and have some fun?" Knowing that Tom had a sailboat up in Yankton, SD I fully expected we were going sailing so I said "Sure, What's up?" To which Tom said "How would you like to go to Pascagoula, Mississippi with me tomorrow?" Still not catching on, and not picking up on the significance of Pascagoula being on the Gulf coast (I'm a little slow - hey, I'm still thinking a day of sailing) - Tom went on to explain what was afoot. I told him I'd call him back. I realized that I, too didn't have anything asking for my time that compared to the possibility of being able to bring even a little relief to the people along the gulf coast. I called Tom back and said "sure, I'll go with you".
This was followed by a flurry of phone calls between Tom, myself, folks at Celebration Covenant Church, my church (Peace Presbyterian Church, Elkhorn, Nebraska), and Eastlawn United Methodist Church. It was decided that Tom and I would leave as soon as possible taking as much with us as we could load into Tom's Toyota pickup truck. We felt that a large part of our time would be spent clearing trees from roads and yards. We would find out what was needed most and communicate that back to another group that was scheduled to leave in six days with larger vehicles/trailers with as much as they could transport.
On Friday we collected and loaded the pickup truck: two chain saws, bar oil, gas mix oil, a box of safety glasses, two generators, an air conditioner, sump pump, 20 cans of insect repellent, latex gloves, ear protectors, batteries, a case of men's work gloves (60 pairs), a case of women's work gloves (108 pairs), two Colman gas lanterns, Colman stove, Colman fuel, two radios (one with XM satellite reception), flashlights, 120 volt emergency light, 12 volt emergency light, axe, rope, log chain, sling straps, comealong, gas cans, toothbrushes, shampoo, shaving razors, tarps, 20 gallons of water, small hand tools, small power tools, tent, cots and bedding for us to sleep on, as well as clothing for 1 week minimum.
We purchased a lot of the supplies at Lowes in Omaha. When we told them what we were doing they graciously gave us a 50% discount on everything. We also had the church's tax ID number so we saved there also.
We were finally on the road by 6 PM. We had heard that they needed gas in manageable containers for generators, etc. We had left room in the rear of the truck for as much gas as we felt we could cram in. So, at one of our gas stops we found a Home Depot and purchased twenty 5 gallon gas cans. We also purchased some 2x4s cut to 64". With these we made a platform in the rear of the truck so we could carry the gas cans on two levels. After filling the cans we had 100 gallons of gas for them to use in chain saws, generators, etc. Unfortunately Home Depot only allowed us a 10% discount and accepted our tax ID.
On another stop, closer to our destination we picked up food for ourselves, toilet paper, "Fast Orange" waterless hand cleaner, disinfecting soap, bleach, etc. We also picked up a small microwave and two cases of paper towels which, of course would not fit inside the truck so we strapped them to the roof ... the back seat managed to get more stuff as well ...
However, Wal-Mart wouldn't give us either a discount or recognition of our tax ID number!
After about 20 hours of driving we arrived at our destination ...
Except that, when we arrived, it was pitch black (no power in the area) with the sound of generators running in the distance. At first, I wasn't even sure we had arrived at the correct place. Using a flashlight, I searched for an open door to see if I could find some indication that this was, in fact, Eastlawn Methodist Church. I finally found an open door. I made my way down a muddy hall strewn with mud, debris, furniture, etc. and located a poster with the church's name on it.
Once we confirmed that we were at the correct place I lit my Coleman lantern. We also fired up Tom's small generator and connected up a large work light. As we unloaded the truck to make room to sleep inside we became aware that, even though we couldn't see it, there was a house across the street. We could see a flashlight from time to time as well as hear the bark of a dog and voices. Having no idea what kind of a neighborhood we were in, we were somewhat nervous but we were so tired after the long drive that it didn't take long to get to sleep ...
When we awoke the next morning a man came walking across the street with a cup of coffee in his hand. He introduced himself as Jack and asked if we would like some coffee. We immediately accepted his offer and followed him across the street to meet Sharon, Bob (an Over-The-Road trucker friend), and Maggie, a Chocolate Labrador Retriever.
After talking to them for awhile we heard the other side of the story from the night before: Jack, Sharon and Bob had seen a strange pickup drive up and two people wandering around the church. After awhile the two guys turned on a bunch of lights. At first they thought it might be someone ransacking the church, but then Bob commented that "They're either not burglars or, with all those lights on, they're the dumbest burglars around!".
For the next week, we spent each morning on Sharon and Jack's front porch enjoying their company and their coffee and each afternoon enjoying a cold beer after a hard days work.
Next: The effects of Katrina on Eastlawn United Methodist Church ...