Yesterday we went to the BJCC in Birmingham, as a few hundred evacuees had come there on buses. We dropped off the individual soaps, shampoos, conditioners, and lotions that I had (it was the same sack that I brought on our first trip to the coast; the places we went to really didn’t need them but at the BJCC, when I told them what I had, they said that was what they were really in need of right then).
Av and I went inside one of the convention halls that they have set up now as a Red Cross shelter. It is very nice, with cots and blankets, food, and air conditioning. They have clothes distribution, books for children, hair braiding, medical evaluations, crafts for children, everything you could imagine. There were so many local volunteers that they were actually turning those people away at the door, explaining that they were overrun by volunteers, but to come back later. Literally I would say that there was probably one volunteer per every one or two evacuees.
We are already on a list for home hospitality for some people from New Orleans, but we did have space at least for that night for a couple of people. What happens is really odd – the Red Cross can’t match you up for liability reasons, so you go in, let the people at the desk know that you want to offer your home to someone, and they tell you to just go up to someone that you might like and talk to them. It’s almost like dating.
We talked to a man from Arabi, Louisiana (which is just over the river from New Orleans) who had 14 feet of water in his house. It is a total loss, and his car is totaled. He is there with his son, but his wife and two other sons he believes are in a shelter in Algiers. We offered them to come stay with us, but he didn’t want to leave because he had been on television and was afraid that she might see it and be able to come for them, and then they wouldn’t be there. We also wanted to take him to them, but what if they passed each other on the highway? A lot of the phone service in Louisiana (and Mississippi) is still down so you just don’t know what the other person knows or what their plans are or anything. It is just such a frightening thing.