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  September 19, 2005 VOL. 43, NO. 16Oakland, CA

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Traumatized evacuees join East Bay Catholic families

Local colleges enroll students displaced by Katrina

Prelate heading seminary study
cautions against ordaining gays

Jordanian king calls upon faiths to defeat extremism

Churches press U.N. on poverty

USF leaders visit Tijuana for lessons in social justice

O’Dowd teacher helps diffuse tension in West Bank

Public policy breakfast addresses
issues of the common good

St. Rose Hospital ceases to be Catholic,
but retains name as community hospital

St. Benedict Parish
celebrates 75 years

A golden jubilee for St. Bede Parish

Religion majors increase among college students

Chautauqua XIII is set for Oct. 1

Catholics, Quakers to meet on activism

COMMENTARY
Post-Katrina blaming: a disturbing lens into who we are

•"The Exorcism of Emily Rose’ is a sober look at the mystery of evil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Traumatized evacuees join East Bay Catholic families

Sleeping bags and air mattresses cover every inch of floor space. The kitchen pantry overflows with food donated by generous friends and neighbors. Gifts of clothing and money arrive daily.

The nine adults and 13 kids— hurricane survivors living with Darrick Lackey, a parishioner at St. Columba, Oakland — are using all of it with the deepest of gratitude.
They have nothing. They are part of a massive human diaspora set into motion on Aug. 29 when Hurricane Katrina’s watery holocaust devastated Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Lackey and his partner, who began taking New Orleans relatives into their five-bedroom home just a few days after Katrina struck, are two of many East Bay residents who are opening their doors and hearts to hurricane survivors. Many are coming to stay with relatives, as a large number of East Bay Catholics have ties to the Gulf Coast.

Robert Moses, a manager for the City of Oakland’s Head Start facilities, is another example. Moses’ four-bedroom home and large motor home house 18 guests – 12 kids and six adults.

Lackey, a Cal State Hayward employee, said some of his guests have learned that their homes are okay, but others have lost dwellings and jobs. One relative, who worked as a principal, found out that his school building is underwater in New Orleans. It’s the same story for his wife, an administrative assistant. “All they have left is their dignity,” Lackey said.

Lackey is helping the couple’s teen-age son find a college prep high school in the East Bay– hopefully a Catholic one—so the youth can get back on the study track he left behind in New Orleans.

Moses’ situation is similar to Lackey’s. In addition to the six adults who arrived from New Orleans in a van with Moses’ brother, Donald, there are 12 kids who need to find new schools in the Oakland area. Three of them — Donald Moses’ grandchildren — are now enrolled in St. Bernard School. Meanwhile, Robert Moses continues to track down classrooms for the rest of the children.

Both Lackey and Moses realize they and their guests are only at the beginning of a journey.
After providing corporal works of mercy, now comes another kind of hosting. It means listening as evacuees emerge from their shock and begin to process their harrowing escapes from rooftops and flood waters. It involves shepherding them through the maze of paperwork needed to access Social Security and FEMA and Red Cross disaster relief. It means introducing them to the East Bay job market.

It means waiting as they continue to seek information on missing relatives and friends back home. Hope hangs in the balance for everyone – the glowing prospect of joyful reunions versus the brutal possibility of loss and death.

“We still have a lot ahead of us,” said Moses, who adds that he is depending upon “the Lord to continue to help me.”

Hurricane survivor Joyce Lombard displays the same faith in divine assistance.

Lombard, 68, arrived at daughter Denise Woodland’s Piedmont home nearly a week after the hurricane with exactly two outfits and one blanket to her name. “I lost most of my things along the way,” explained the New Orleans resident. “Along the way” included a few days’ stay in the Superdome.

Lombard was among the first group of people admitted to the facility the day before the hurricane. That Sunday she parked her car four blocks from the Superdome and walked the rest of the way.

During the next few days she spent even more time walking inside the stadium, as people moved away from the rain-damaged roof. At first, Lombard had hot meals to eat and plenty of water to drink as well as a hot shower. But as the crowds and noise increased, tensions escalated. It was not an easy place to be.

But Lombard, who raised seven children, made the best of the situation by “being on call to everyone who needed me”– several blind, elderly, fragile seniors — “precious people,” as well as a number of young mothers and their children. Lombard found herself doing family counseling and damage control when the women became cross and started screaming.

“I advised them to ‘tell your kids what you want them to do.’ I talked to the little children, and pretty soon they were sitting around their moms, like little angels.”

The Superdome situation became highly problematic as more people crowded in, causing the facility’s bathroom plumbing infrastructures to break down. Lombard was eventually evacuated to Houston, where she spent a day and a half in the Astrodome before her family flew her to Oakland. She arrived here on Sept. 4.

“I do have homeowner’s insurance,” she said about the home she’s lost. But right now Lombard plans to resettle in Oakland, to be near her daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren, Corpus Christi second grader Gabrielle, 7, and Christopher, 5. “I almost feel I’d like to make a change in my life. People back there have the same ideas,” said Lombard, a bit wearily.

As Lombard settles into East Bay life, Gwen Evans, a St. Columba parishioner, has been burning up phone lines between here and Minneapolis, Baton Rouge and Houston to check on elderly relatives. They escaped, ending up with various family members across the country.

Right before the hurricane struck, tensions ran high as Evans and other family members pleaded long distance with elderly kinfolks to evacuate. Evans’ mom, a cousin, and one aunt didn’t want to leave New Orleans, she said, because they’d weathered so many hurricanes where things always went back to normal.
It didn’t happen this time. Her 88-year-old aunt waited too long to leave and ended up standing on a chair atop her mattress to escape invading floor waters.

A youngster across the street heard the woman’s screams and swam to her. The youngster’s grandmother and an aunt were also in danger of drowning, so the youth swam further down the street and found two neighbors who rounded up doors to use as life rafts for all of them.

Rescue helicopters finally found them because Evans had been on the phone long distance, providing cross streets and other directions so the team could locate her aunt.

Another poignant story concerns Evans’ cousin George Simms, a frail senior citizen suffering long-term effects of a head injury, which causes him to stutter when under stress. Hurricane Katrina found Simms before he could leave his beautiful house, located close to the Industrial Canal, where one of the levees broke.

Simms climbed up the wrought iron screen door to the roof to escape drowning. He sat there for hours shivering from the rain and cold, soaked to the bone.

When the rescue helicopter took him to the Superdome, Simms found a plastic garbage bag in a corner and headed for a restroom to get out of his sopping clothes. His experiences of the Superdome were unlike Joyce Lombard’s. Chaos was everywhere. People were offering him dope and alcohol. He witnessed the rape of a woman and people being robbed at gunpoint.

Simms huddled in a corner until buses arrived to begin evacuating people. A sympathetic journalist helped the traumatized man get on the bus and rounded up some food for him, which Simms vowed not to eat until he reached his daughter’s home near Dallas. The reporter managed to track down the daughter, Zahira Simms, to let her know he was headed for the Houston Astrodome.

George is now with his daughter, catching up on food and rest.

“When I talked to him on the phone, I was the one to break down into tears, but he told me ‘Don’t cry, Gwen, I’m doing just fine.’”


Kathy Gannon-Briggs, principal, welcomes Krishan Dorsey (left), Eddie Tillman and Terenisha Dorsey to St. Bernard School in Oakland on Sept. 12. The three children, evacuees from New Orleans, are living in Oakland with an uncle.
CHRIS DUFFEY PHOTO

 

MaryAnn Von Stade surveys the place where her friend Jackie Carroll’s house stood until Hurricane Katrina destroyed Pass Christian, Mississippi.
GREG TARCZYSNKI PHOTO

 



Rocky Lai, 3, waits with his father for Red Cross assistance at the St. Anthony of Padua Shelter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
GREG TARCZYSNKI PHOTO


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