Monday, September 12, 2005

Evacuees Seek Refuge, Find Safe Haven in Hattiesburg Shelter

Friday, September 09, 2005 — HATTIESBURG, Miss. – Hurricane Katrina may have stolen 79-year-old Glorya Sanders’ home, but not her hope.
Glorya Sanders, who along with with her husband and daughter evacuated their home in Waveland, Miss., and found refuge at the Red Cross shelter located at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center in Hattiesburg, Miss., Sept. 2005. (Photo Source: Steve Coleman/American Red Cross)
All her precious mementos, china and crystal are gone, but she, her husband and daughter escaped with their lives from their homes in Waveland, Miss., one of the hardest hit areas in the Gulf Coast area. The Sanders are among the 2,100 evacuees from the gulf who have found a safe haven in the American Red Cross shelter at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center in Hattiesburg, Miss.
“We don’t have anything and I feel terrible,” Sanders said about her home, pausing to cough and adjust the nasal tube from her portable oxygen tank she uses for breathing problems. “But I’ll be okay and the Red Cross has been so wonderful here – absolutely wonderful.”
She and her husband, a retired Navy man, were reluctant to leave their home because they have successfully weathered other hurricanes. Like many others in the Gulf, they didn’t expect Katrina to be so catastrophic.
Although 60 miles inland, Hattiesburg was not spared. The hurricane devastated the coast and then continued on, leaving many roads impassable and many people without power or running water.
Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee said that they have never had such destruction in their area. He also indicated that the Red Cross was there to help.
“The Red Cross has been great to work with. It means a lot to people who live here,” he said on Tuesday when he stopped by the shelter to pick up some hot meals for his deputies, who are manning roadblocks to keep motorists out of dangerous areas. “This is one of the smoothest run shelters in this area.”
Some of the evacuees came from as far away as New Orleans. Allison Dean, III, a 45-year-old cook from New Orleans, said that he lost his home and doesn’t know where his family is right now. He evacuated the day before the hurricane hit, hitching a ride with a neighbor. They just drove and ended up in Hattiesburg, lost and frustrated. A police officer told them about the Red Cross shelter, and they have been there since.
“I am grateful to God for not leaving me behind,” Dean said. “We all appreciate what the Red Cross is doing. Without you all we would be in a lot more trouble.”
Little Contessa Davis, the "diamond princess," sleeps soundly in a cot at the Red Cross shelter in Hattiesburg, Miss., Sept. 2005. (Photo Source: Steve Coleman/American Red Cross)
Dean is thankful that he wasn’t trapped back in New Orleans but, he’s worried about his daughters, who lived with their mother in New Orleans.
“I don’t know where anyone is and they don’t know where I am. I need to let them know that I am safe and not floating,” Dean said. “I’m holding on to the last string of hope.”
Tenesion Davis also escaped New Orleans with her boyfriend, 11-month-old baby girl and two teen-aged sons.
“I would probably die if something happened to my ‘diamond princess’,” she said, watching her little girl, Contessa, sleep peacefully on a Red Cross cot at the shelter. They have no idea how long they’ll be homeless or when they can return to salvage what’s left. “If we hadn’t had a car, we would have had to stay in the Superdome in New Orleans. Bless the Red Cross for being so good to us.”
The hurricane also prompted people to help. Connie Hunt, a nurse at Regency Hospital in Hattiesburg, went to the shelter to volunteer after she heard nurses were needed. She brought her 13-year-old son, David McDonald, to help.
David McDonald, 13, helps pass out ice at the Forrest County Shelter in Hattiesburg, Miss., Sept. 2005. (Photo Source: Steve Coleman/American Red Cross)
“My son has been so sheltered,” Hunt said. “We’ve never had to go without power before. Now he’s passing out food and bringing people ice.”
David said he felt good about being there.
“Its fun helping people,” he said simply.
Hunt looked after Sanders and made sure a doctor prescribed sick woman antibiotics to treat her worsening cough. The local hospital could only accept life-or-death cases.
Hunt said she was so impressed by the shelter.
“This is my first experience with the Red Cross, and I just love it,” she said. “I’m just real impressed. I have never seen a set-up like this before.”


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