Day 1 – Saturday, 09.01.2012
“Welcome to the Party”
It is of the utmost importance to take every possible precaution when packing and planning. The team I was assigned to had given us a list to go by. Of course, being the over-prepared Boy Scout, I added more things to that list.
Family is the 2nd important thing to consider when you are deploying. After my father passed away, I live with my mother and look after her. (insert the 30 year old living with Mom jokes.) I also have a pet pug dog named Molly. Needless to say, she’s going to be traumatized by this. My dog, not my mother.
I contacted my some of my close friends and requested that they check in on her periodically. We are told to plan for 2 weeks, however its possible that 3rd week could get slipped in on us if we are needed. Always make sure your own loved ones are taken care of.
It was 9:45 and time to get a move on. Yea, the flight was scheduled to leave at 1PM, but it’s a holiday weekend, and you have to get through security. I know it’s bad luck to say it, but it was too easy to get through everything. When you are heading on assignment to help people, you see generosity come out of the woodwork, even in the TSA.
Our first flight left right on time. No issues or problems. I’m a big guy, and I was concerned about seating. I have to hand it to Delta Airlines, they took amazing care of us. We must have had a heck of a tailwind too, because we made it to Atlanta almost a half hour early.
Noel put in some important calls to DSHR HQ, to find out how we were getting from New Orleans to Port Allen. I see a car rental in our future. Its about an hour and 45 minutes from NOLA to Baton Rouge according to our GPS, and that’s if roads aren’t flooded.
Up until now, it had just been Noel and I on this journey. In Atlanta at our gate, we met a nice lady named Wendy Flynn. She’s a Red Cross staffing manager from the Cape Fear Chapter, who is also heading to Port Allen. Noel and I invited her to tag along with us.
As I write this, we’re currently 80 miles north of New Orleans. The captain advised us we are making our initial decent, and will be arriving early. Twice in one day. Groovy. Noel and Wendy are catching up on a who’s who of Red Cross. I was chatting with a chill Australian tourist. I wish him a good journey….
By now, you’ve seen a couple pictures. Maybe even the one of us after we arrived. Had to rent a car, then it was on to Baton Rouge/Port Allen for check in. Louisiana greeted us with a small storm and some nice lightning. Between two weather nerds like Wendy and I (both Skywarn Spotters!), it probably looked like a scene out of “Twister”.
Cruising along I-80, we saw probably what was a fraction of the water that had been here during the storm. I can’t put into words, but I’m amazed. The Louisiana State Troopers are all over the highway holding it down. Closed roads all over the place.
I’ll be honest with you. I am not a fan of Alligators. And we did happen to see a couple along the highway in the “no-longer-low-laying” ditches. The storm pushed the marsh wildlife right up to the street. We saw street turtles and road gators. I may be a fat guy, but you’ll be impressed how quick I’m moving to get out of a gator’s way.
We got to Port Allen and checked in with our Philadelphia Director of Emergency Services, Leo Pratte! There are a bunch of us from the SEPA Chapter down here. Running into any of our team is a treat. And they are happy to see you too. The next person I ran into was SEPA – Delaware County’s DAT Leader and Logistics expert Joe Cirillo. A hug, a handshake, and a “see ya later”. He was going to a logistics meeting. I make a quick phone call to Philadelphia City DAT Leader Frank Nardo to see where he is. He’s currently busy at a MegaShelter in Gonzalez, LA. His shelter can hold up to 2,000 displaced residents. He was happy to hear Noel and I were joining the “party”.
The headquarters is also doubling as a bulk distribution center. It appears to be an old K-Mart, but it’s serving our mission. The parking lot is teeming with Emergency Response Vehicles (ERV’s) and a couple Emergency Communications trucks. I will have to examine them closer tomorrow as part of the DST.
An ERV would pull up, get loaded up, and go on their mission’s way to get much needed supplies, comfort kits, or whatever is needed to help alleviate some of the suffering of the population. A lot of these volunteers have faces that show an undying passion, however are tired from hours of serving. They push on, with one goal in mind… To help. This alone is an inspiration to us.
Unfortunately, by the time we arrived to the “party”, it was time to take it down for the night, rest up, for another day of fighting the war against tragedy that has occurred to the people of this area.
I’m not quite used to the one hour time change coming from the east coast, but it is enough to mess you up on the simplest things. Noel, Wendy, and Myself will be joined by another member at 0700 hours, to report for duty at 0730.
Of course, I called to check in with my family, as did Noel, reminding ourselves of the importance even talking to them brings us.
Im salty. Im ready. Im inspired. Tonight, I sleep. Tomorrow, WE HELP.
SEPA Chapter Emergency Communications Coordinator has been deployed with SEPA Chapter AmeriCorps member and veteran volunteer Noel Green to Louisiana to assist with the Red Cross response to Isaac.