It has been three years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, so we sent the following questions to Randy Bacon, a New Orleans native and director of the Behrend Builders Shelter Repair program at the Washington DCJCC. Randy led a group of volunteers to New Orleans in May/June of 2006.
Where were you when Katrina hit? How did your family in New Orleans do both before and after the levees broke.
When Katrina hit New Orleans I was here in DC and watching the television non-stop to see what was going on. My family waited until about 12 hours before the storm actually hit New Orleans before leaving. They took 11 different cars filled with parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, spouses, nieces and nephews. At some point I lost contact with every family member and once the storm made landfall they lost all cell phone reception. It wasn’t until 6 days later that I was finally able to talk to one of my brothers. He explained that everyone in my family was okay but scattered around at different hotels in different states. He explained that they were running into problems accessing money from ATMs and wouldn’t be able to purchase food or pay for the hotels once all the cash on hand was gone.
What was it like the first time you went back to New Orleans after Katrina?
The first time I went back to New Orleans was when Behrend Builders orchestrated a volunteer project on which we took a total of 14 people from the DC area to go do some relief work in the hardest hit areas of New Orleans. We intended on gutting 2 houses for families that had 8 to 12 feet of water inside the homes, but our volunteers pushed themselves and we did a total of 4 houses. Each gutting job probably saved the families around $10,000 dollars per home. We began by removing all personal items and then started at the ceiling and didn’t stop until we could see the concrete on the floor and in some cases the grass underneath the raised homes. I have been back since and all of the houses we gutted have been repaired and are once again a HOME.
How did the Behrend Builder’s trip to New Orleans come-about?
The Behrend Builder trip came about when the previous Coordinator (Annie Mehlman) approached me to see how she could help me or my family. I said we would be fine and she suggested we plan a relief trip to help those in need.
What do you think will happen if Gustav lands on the city? Is your family staying?
My family hasn’t made a decision on what they will do this time. They will decide early tomorrow morning.
UPDATE: Randy emailed me this evening to say that his parents have decided to leave New Orleans and ride out the storm from a safer distance. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his parents and everyone along the Gulf Coast.