MDS crews start patching roofs, help recover belongingsBy John Walker MDS News Service
MOBILE, Ala. — Mennonite Disaster Service volunteers from eastern Pennsylvania started cleanup work Sept. 5 in the disaster zone left by Hurricane Katrina.
Crews from Lebanon and Lancaster gathered in a church parking lot, ready to work at 7:30 a.m. An hour later, they were examining a badly battered trailer in the small community of Creola, north of Mobile.
As Katrina raged, trailer owners D.L. and Allie Steinman could only watch as an 80-foot water oak bent lower and lower, until its branches and then its full weight rested on their home, crushing it and allowing rain to pour in.
The arrival of the MDS volunteers brought a welcome ray of hope and encouragement as the workers straightened, covered and sealed a wall and spread a large section of the roof with tar paper and a blue tarpoline.
“Water would flood into the trailer even in a light rain, but with the tarp they gained time,” Allie Steinman said. “Time for the insurance to come through, time to get the broken trailer out of there and time to get a new trailer in and hooked up. That’s exactly what we needed — time.”
By early afternoon, the MDS volunteers had joined members of Mobile’s Way of Life Mennonite Church in what Pastor J.D. Landis called “a treasure hunt” for personal items belonging to a longtime member of the church.
The group appeared shocked when they arrived at the home of Jim Barnett and saw the extent of the damage.
Barnett’s home, as well as a small guest house and his son’s home next door were gutted by Katrina’s 15-foot storm surge and high winds. Two of the three houses had only walls remaining, with a few items scattered throughout the rooms. A large, thick carpet of debris covered the ground.
As Barnett led the volunteers through his severely damaged home, he showed them the table he’d climbed on with his two dogs to escape rising water during the storm.
“I’ve accumulated many worldly possessions but I can’t take one with me,” Barnett said. “That’s not what it’s all about. My life was spared.”
Volunteers worked through the afternoon, discovering several photo albums and other mementos of Barnett’s travels.
Sadly, an afternoon’s searching found few items intact.
“The only reason I’m asking people to help me find my possessions is for the few dear things such as family photographs,” Barnett said. “But the art and antiques — I’m not going to miss them.”
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