Owing to our motto of not just vounteering but persevering, the crew left for Florida late friday night February second to aid tornado victims in Florida. Armed with the Persevere chainsaw fleet, a weather report, coffee, and a few contacts in the area, we arrived in Florida saturday afternoon and prepared our plans for the next few days. We were fortunate enough to set up camp across the street from the Sushine Community trailer park, a neighborhood that was directly in the tornado's path.
The command structure in the area had thus far failed to materialize. However, the police were very vigilant in thier security. All volunteers had thier records screened and information recorded before being allowed through the second checkpoint. When we geared up and entered the neighborhood, we saw clearly how destructive the tornado was. Entire trailers were in trees, and entire trees were in trailers. Tin and alluminum siding were wrapped around high branches, cars, homes, and lightpoles. Debris was everywhere. The downed trees, and those left dead and standing, still posed a major hazard to the people in the community. So we went to it. We cut out cars, cut down trees, moved debris, and covered a roof with a gigantic blue tarp. We were able to work steadily from sunup to sundown
In some ways, it is difficult to explain the feelings I had during this trip. It was incredibly rewarding to be able to help so many people, to learn more about first response disaster relief, and to work with such great volunteers, but it is challenging to hold that feeling of accomplishment in the face of such devastation. Thankfuly for all people involved, there are people like Kathy. Kathy was a resident in the neighborhood adjacent to the trailer park who opened up her property to volunteers. She regularly told all of us how thankful she was for our help and heaped hospitality on everyone.
As we left, FEMA had finished putting up its tent, and the RedCross had established itself in the neighborhood. The government appeared prepared for the longterm implications of the tornado. Obviously, for those who lost everything or those who lost loved ones, this tornado will be a permanent scar in thier lives, but for many others it should lose significance with time...All in all, it seemed like the tornado response will be a success for those in the affected community.
Returning back to the Pass to continue out longterm hurricane relief, I will take with me the belief that these disasters can be solved. An important belief in the face of Katrina.