MISSISSIPPI TORNADO 4/24/10
JOURNAL NOTES FROM THE FIELD
Did you know that while Mississippi is one of the most beautiful states, it also has large areas of abject poverty? I found the following stats about the state, in a note left for the responders going into the field one morning. “Holmes Co’s median income is $17,000 & Yazoo Co is $22,000. The national median income is $42,000. Additionally, it has the lowest proportion of non-religious residents in the country, @ 4%. Religion is extremely important here; churches are packed on Sundays, & few are integrated. Church services are on Wednesday evening, Sunday mornings, & again Sun. evenings. Sunday services often last past noon. Family genealogy & history is very important. Residents while telling their stories will inform you of their extended families, & how they are related by blood, marriage, or “country cousins” to other people.” Mud is not an issue today, however, in the areas we’ve serviced recently, they have poisonous snakes, & the bugs here are BIG. Brown Recluse spiders & red FIRE ants are our biggest worry. Hungry cats & dogs, abandoned by their owners due to the storm, frequently approach us, friend & foe; we carry dog & cat food, w/ jugs of water & bowls, to feed, & appease them. One team member was bitten by a dog yesterday, spending the afternoon in the ER. Another bitten today & as I write is in the ER (5/8). My first tears were shed yesterday, over finding a starving dog. He was so thin, you could see every rib; it broke my heart. We fed him food, until we were afraid too much food, after days of none, would make him sick. Dogs are starting to form small packs; we need to be oh so careful. We’ve had a few situations where red crossers have become ill while in the field, & have returned home. This DR has the best Health Services for the Red Cross volunteers that I’ve ever experienced on deployment, a service I could have benefited from when I became so sick when in Galveston after IKE. Jutta, our staff services RN, who hails from Virginal, takes wonderful care of our needs. I learned a lot about the necessity for self care, from my personal experiences w/ IKE & Gustuv. I was in the field for 6-wks, did not get adequate days off, once for as long as a 21-day stretch, when I finally demanded a day off for my 78 year old red cross partner & me. We were pooped. I became too exhausted, not hydrating adequately, & did not seek medical attention quickly enough when I caught the “FEMA crud”. We sometimes learn life’s difficult lessons experientially; I certainly learned the hard way. Staff Health & supervisors here are very attentive to both staff emotional & physical health. We have been blessed with their attentive care. We continue to be in awe of the force of nature, & the resiliency of people. Some of our volunteers have never seen extreme poverty, & high illiteracy. Yet, these proud survivors are not system entitled, (there is something special about the poor survivors of Mississippi), and ever thankful for every shoulder to cry on, hug, Information & Referral, and their sense that we are not fancy smanchy outsiders, but people who truly feel a need to be of service to others, with no ulterior motive other than the fact we care. I get perplexed when friends & family in their wonderful accolades think there is something special about what we do. Red Crossers, & other volunteers, quite frankly, like disaster response work; in the midst of great tragedy we often find moments of great fun, and a wonderful sense of camaraderie. I have been travelling off & on with AmeriCorps young adults. I have never met a nasty AmeriCorps youth. I guess I have missed my own grown adult children & they help fill a void that nourishes me in the field. I have become close to Jason from Vicksburg/Michigan & Collins from NOLA/Atlanta. Reminds me of Jessie, Danny, Stacie, Rosa, et al, who I have become attached to on prior deployments. Disaster survivors, who are often a proud & thankful lot, make this work ever so rewarding. We find great fun in this world of work; I’ve had moments with fellow red crossers that had me laughing until my sides hurt. 5/8/10: today we are “mopping up” in Yazoo; the storm was 2 wks ago today, so most needs have been met, w/ FEMA, MEMA, & the NGOs (non governmental organizations), meeting the needs along w/ a large cadre of local volunteers. We should get our new marching orders tomorrow, after we were given the morning off to go to church; so, w/ the few Catholic volunteers, we’ll go to Mass, then brunch, then onto headquarters, where we will find where we go next. My Manager, a wonderful Mississippi RN, is the Manager of Health Services, for the state of Mississippi. I will miss her. She said this morning that she would “guarantee” I was being re deployed. I think I’m going to Nashville, but plans are always fluid.