Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Day of Stories

“Y’all are the ones that keep me going. Without volunteers like you, I don’t know what would have happened to me. Thank you for saving my life.”

-James, from the Annunciation Mission

Tuesday was a day filled with intense stories and hard work. Over the next couple of days you will hear about some of the stories: a stranger offering to buy snacks for the group as a thank you; two high school seniors talk about why they decided to do their senior internship in New Orleans; personal accounts of people who both evacuated and remained during Katrina. Feel free to leave a comment.

When I woke up, I was skeptical about going back to work. I wasn’t physically ready nor did I mentally prepare myself for a full-day’s work. After a forty-five minute car ride to our site, I was more awake only until I had to spackle again- I would do anything to try to avoid putting mud on the ceiling (although the main reason was because of my height). Finally it was lunch! I couldn’t wait to get to the store to buy my (kosher) mac and cheese. After our lunch and our daily trip to Winn Dixie, I was excited to get back to work. I decided that the only way to get myself to work was to enter my own little world and jam out to music on my iPod. I ended up working in the bathroom for three hours by myself. I sanded all of the walls and I spackled the closet and the windowsill. Before I realized it, it was almost time to clean up for the day. Now that I look back at the day, I am very proud of all the work that was completed. Even though preparing the walls for paint is not very exciting, we’ve come to realize the work that all of us have been doing down here with the St. Bernard Project is highly rewarding and necessary. This is work that needs to get done and will bring the homeowner one step closer to coming home.

Later that night, everything became more real for me. As I was hanging out with the other people on the trip, multiple people were coming upstairs to tell us that one of the guys who works at the church, James, was sharing his personal experience about living through Hurricane Katrina. When I went downstairs, I was surprised to see 40 people sitting in a circle and listening to his story silently. I was so moved by his story. He told us all of the details ranging from: when the storm first hit he used air mattresses as a raft to rescue people to the terrors he witnessed in the Superdome to his experiences living in Alabama to his eventual reconnection with his daughter(3 months later) and his mother(1 year later) to the daily mental battles inside his head and to the heart warming generosity of strangers- so generous that when he returned to New Orleans with a sign on his car, people stopped him to give him money. He then ended his story with a “thank you”. After listening to his story, I now know that we are not only just rebuilding New Orleans. We are rebuilding people’s lives. Every little thing counts. I am glad to be a part of this incredible trip.


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