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April 24, 2006

New Orleans Katrina Clean Up Day Two

Wow. Day two turned out to be a lot of work, but very exhilarating and remarkable.

As I mentioned yesterday, we are in a FEMA run facility operated by the Federal Government. As an Ops person, I have to say, I quite enjoy the process and procedure that abounds here. Straight forward and simple rules. Clear structure and reason for all parts of the camp. Things run pretty darn well.

Anyway, the teams here go out in two waves. The first teams go out to the work sites at 7:30, so need to be up by no later than 6 probably. The second teams go out to the sites at 8:30. We are a second wave team. So, we were up around 6:45 today.

No one showers (why bother) so it is over to the mess tent for breakfast. In addition to a Team Captain each team has a Tool Captain. Ours is fellow co-worker Harry Pallick. Harry, as Tool captain, gets up earlier than we do, gets all of our teams tools inventoried and prepped, and leaves for the work site earlier than us. He also stays behind at the site after we leave as well, securing the tools until the tool truck comes by.

By the way, Harry is napping over on his cot in our tent as I type this. The life of a Tool Captain!

Following breakfast our team meets at 8:00 for a team meeting. Together we review that everyone is there, has appropriate Personal Protection Equipment, and their FEMA sack lunch.

Our "cooler team" - Jeremy McGuire and Paul from Boston - head over to pack our water cooler for the team. They recommend each team member drink 1 or 2 bottles per hour during the work shift. We take as much as we can, about 90 or so. As is the procedure prescribed, we mix frozen water bottles with regular ones. This cools the regular ones. Later at the site we open the cooler and let the frozen ones thaw.

Once an assigned bus arrives, each to transport four teams to the job, we load the coolers and hop on. We finally make it to our first home site about 9 am. We are at 2500 Paul Drive.

The good news is, our house has a large doorway in the front, probably was a sliding glass door or french doors. The bad news is, we can't really even take a step in.

The debris and furniture are pretty much completely blocking our way. As we force in a bit, we step into dark green muck and start to get a sense of whatmay have happened here.

The ceiling is on the floor. Drywall, insulation, ceiling tiles - everything. Differs slightly depending on the room. In this home, the living room has a nice 12 foot or so vaulted ceiling. All of that ceiling is on the floor.

Lookint high on the wall, we can see the water line from the storm at about 10 ft. This is a single story house and is maybe 15 feet tall in total to the top of the roof. Even on the roof during the storm there would have been little room for safety. Freaky, scary, and sad.

We worked hard to clear the rooms and make our way in. Removing large items first, couches, chairs, the ceiling, whatever is in your way.

The floor has anywhere from 3 to 6 inches of river mud on it. Everywhere. EVERYWHERE. We scoop, and scoop, and scoop. This is heavy, wet, silt, mud. It is on everything, soaked into everything, making everything very heavy.

I wish I could post my photos, but I don't have my transfer cable. I'll post them later, but they still may not do it justice.

Gutting the house is definitely a mix of emotion.

First, there is the sheer work of it. It is hot. 85 degrees and maybe 45 percent humidity, outside. Inside is hotter until you can get some windows opened or smashed out.

We are wearing a hard hat, long pants, short or long sleeves, an air respirator over our mouths, protective eye goggles and work boots.

Along with the work there is a definite feeling of challenge and motivation. "We can do this" and "Let's go!" are on the mind.

As you get into it, and slow down due to the conditions and work, that fades a bit, but not completely. For the most part, we stay upbeat and moving. Continual progress.

Amazement sets in, definitely as you get into personal belongings, hoping to find valuables and memorabilia that can be salvaged. Furniture, like desks just fall apart as you pull out drawers. Still you look hopefully for something of value or sentiment that can be returned to the owners. It is sad to peel through stacks of photos, glommed together by the moisture, and find none with anything left but smears of ink that are not recognizable.

Essentilly you are awestruck at what has happened here. Total loss. Photo albums, clothes, letters, furniture, literally everything a family had, is in here and is ruined.

It is a good thing we are here. All of these volunteers. I can't imagine how much more work needs done. I'm glad we came.

I know this, we will work just as hard, if not harder through the week. And, we will sleep better and better each night!

Posted by gcrgcr at April 24, 2006 6:53 PM

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