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“Flooded”

September 7, 2011

Page 3

 

No cars were allowed so only firemen or police drove by, and the National Guard in their humvees. Some people walked or rode by on bikes, taking pictures with their phones. For the first time, I felt inside the news.

In the evening we walked up to the community center, what we knew as the old Presbyterian church. The town had organized and the energy of every volunteer was marshaled. Command Central was formed; breakfast, lunch and dinner served, with a different restaurant or church group donating each meal. There were stacks of bottled water, juices, and coffee, a table of baked goods. Port-a-potties. Everyone served was in water, juices, and coffee, a table of baked goods. Port-a-potties. Everyone served was in flood attire, covered in red dust, with their masks loose around their necks, rubber gloves in their pockets. I took a plate and as a woman served me some summer squash, I tried to say thank you but teared up instead. She nodded and smiled.

The next day more family arrived; my sister Jeanne brought dinner. Before we ate, we each grabbed a beer and walked down the street to see our neighbors. They drifted out of their houses and we stood on the yellow line talking dehumidifiers and fans and mold, how high to cut the sheet rock, whether to save an antique couch. Then this gray car came slowly toward us and stopped. The driver said, “Can I help you with anything?” paused, then added, “I’m the police.” One of us asked, “Should we not be drinking in the street?” He smiled. “If my houses looked like that—I’d be drinking here, too. Or worse,” and he drove away. It was one of our perks.

By Labor Day weekend we had (partial) electricity, water that needed to be boiled (but no toilets) and hordes of volunteers, people we’d never met arriving with their own masks, gloves and boots. Two self-described disaster junkies, teenagers tattooed and pierced, a lesbian couple, evangelical Christians. And what seemed most surprising, families, one all the way from Syracuse, the teenaged boy saying, “This is what we do. We went to Katrina, too.” Zoe, an eleven-year-old from Manhattan, carried five gallon

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