Saturday, September 24, 2005

After Rita; In For the Long Haul

We've been receiving news slowly, in drips and drabs. Everyone wants to know about the condition of their homes and communities, but we are receiving precious little information from the Golden Triangle. The cable news stations have tended to focus on the larger urban areas, particularly Houston and New Orleans - neither of which took a direct hit. Beaumont and Lake Charles clearly suffered worse destruction, but are getting less coverage. Either news is only slowly emerging from the most effected areas, or it's simply that larger urban areas with greater populations demand more attention. Maybe it's a little of both.

I talked with one of my coworkers by cell phone today. She and her family evacuated to Woodville (which was the original destination for Silsbee Convalescent Center patients...before the storm's projected path caused an immediate change of plan). She sounded miserable. She has four kids with her. They are without electricity and have no food. The authorities are telling them not to return to their home, and they can't go anywhere else because the gas stations are all closed. She told me that during the night there were tornadoes - one took down a row of trees behind the building they are staying in. She also informed me that another of our coworkers wrecked her car in a collision while evacuating. Our conversation made me even more thankful that we are here in Tyler.

Everyone is talking about when we can go back to our homes. It doesn't look like that is gonna happen anytime soon. It's gonna take time for electricity to be restored, and apparently the buildings at Silsbee Convalescent Center sustained some serious damage. The patients and their caregivers will have to remain here until the facilities are inhabitable again. And tonight yet another busload of evacuees arrived. The storm may have passed, but our little ordeal is far from over. The worst part is not knowing. We won't know the full extent of the disaster until we can return to our homes and survey the damage, and nobody knows when that will be. And then we'll face the hard work of clearing the wreckage and rebuilding. No telling when this will finally end.

I'm writing this in the gymnasium where most of the evacuess have bedded down for the night. It's after lights out and quiet except for the snoring, occasional coughs, and some incoherent babbling from the nursing home patients. I'll be going to bed myself soon.


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