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The Refugees Next Door

Dear Kay,
I just learned that there are a bunch of Katrina refugees staying at the Hampton Inn next to the Green Hills Mall. That’s less than a mile from my house. Seven kids, two moms, a grandmother, two chihuahuas, and a bird named Roman. I want to take them a casserole or something–any ideas? They think they’ll be here for a month. Here’s the story on the Bodin family.
When the tsunami hit Indonesia last year, it seemed like a bad dream: a faraway, desperate situation that was hard to understand. Heartbreaking, yet remote. I had to get my globe to find the affected islands. Katrina is different. New Orleans is where everybody has celebrated something–Mardi Gras, the New Orleans Jazzfest, a quick weekend getaway. Everybody has a story about New Orleans. We spent our tenth wedding anniversary there, our first visit to the city but certainly not our last, we promised ourselves.
It’s just not that far away. This nightmare, this unbelievable series of events, is right down the road, seven hours by car. I can’t stop watching the coverage, even though I know I should stop. It is as desperate a situation as anybody could imagine; Hollywood wouldn’t even conjure a disaster as abject as this. The worst is yet to come, too.
I hope everybody will find a way to support the relief efforts. If you’ve never been to New Orleans, it was the most foreign-feeling place in the whole country. It was unique and wild and full of life. Maybe, in years to come, it will return. But to look at the pictures today, it’s hard to imagine the day when you will be able to hop a streetcar and take a ride down a leafy boulevard, feeling a bit too full from the shrimp etoufee you had for a late lunch.
Love,
Ann

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. I love the city of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, and always imagined that I would return to live one day. And still do. Though it makes the images break my heart even more.
    I wish I was closer and could provide any comfort at all to refugees. Take ‘em some brownies or cookies. Maybe something for the kids to do. But a homecooked warm casserole always makes everyone feel a little better.

  2. Toys or games or coloring books or something for the kids. With the kids occupied, as I’m sure you know, the parents can get a little peace and try to make sense of what they’re going to do. I can’t even imagine.

  3. Bless your heart for thinking of them. I think the kids will love anything extrordinarily normal (think fruit or church-potluck kinds of casseroles). But the moms might appreciate something even more fundemental: underwear.

  4. Two things we can all do: Pray, and send money to one of the major relief organizations.
    Then pray some more.

  5. Sounds like they need to get out of that hotel room. Maybe a picnic in a local park if it is not too hot? A community pool? Just some place where they can disperse all that cooped up boy energy. And have a little fun and eat some good food. Your southern hospitality gene will take care of you, don’t you worry. Your kindness will mean the most to them, I am certain. This maybe one of those times when it really is the thought that counts.

  6. I’ve been watching the news as much as possible the last few days, and the footage from Mississippi and Louisiana is just heartbreaking. New Orleans was in my Top Five Places to Visit, and now ……. it’s terribly sad.
    As for your local refugees, how about some books and small toys for the kids, drawing supplies, snacks … it sounds as though the parents primarily need ways to keep the kids occupied. Bless you for thinking of them.

  7. Take the casserole, for all of who can’t be there to help.
    Maybe take a little yarn and some needles? If your refugees happen to be knitters, imagine the comfort they would get from this. From the news we are hearing, it seems they will now have too much time, with little to occupy them. Heartbreaking.

  8. Mac& cheese. Fresh fruit. Good coffee.

  9. i can’t stop thinking about the families either… it seems v. far away but we’re listening to coverage on Vermont Public Radio & seeing the photos in the paper (no TV). and it seems closer than we could ever have imagined. am keeping my eyes peeled for fundraising initiatives from the knitting community & hoping i can participate… ;-)

  10. Poor things. Watching from England it’s hard to believe. Speechless really.

  11. I think we’ve really failed as a nation. Biggest emergency since 9/11 and it’s total chaos. I thought we were supposed to be prepared for this sort of thing–what would be the difference if a terrorist had blown up the levees? And, unlike an attack, we saw this thing coming well in advance.
    I guess it will be up to individuals to do what they can do. Donations, time, food. A casserole would be a nice gesture, Ann. Maybe we can all think of something to do in whatever way we can.

  12. I have to keep reminding myself that the news footage I’ve been seeing is right here in our own backyard and those people are Americans, just like me. My husband and I had always planned to go to New Orleans but we hadn’t yet and I’m so sad to think that it will never be the same.
    Just visiting that family is going to mean so much to them. I think whatever you do will be appreciated.

  13. I’m sure these folks would be happy to take knitted items: http://craftrevolution.com/craftersunited.htm\ (Sorry the direct link doesn’t seem to be working)

  14. Anything would help them.
    If anyone could help us it would be appreciated.
    My husband’s 73 year old uncle who is blind is missing in Pascagula,Ms. If any one has had contact with that area please contact me at qltann@aol.com
    Thanks
    Ann

  15. What I as a European find mostr appalling is the breakdown of civilisation. Looting? Armed gangs? What are they thinking???

  16. Thank you so much for saying something. I am so surprised how silent almost every other knitting blog I read has been. I too am stunned by what I am seeing and want to help in the same way as when the Tsunami struck.

  17. Bless your hospitable Southern heart. Tell them where the tot lots and parks are–places the kids can run around and they can walk those little dogs. Take some spray millet for Roman–caged birds are homebodies, they just hate hate hate to be moved.
    About the looting; ag major speaking here. It’s a truism that civilization is only 6 meals deep. Any group anywhere will behave in ways they’d never dreamed of once they’ve gone two days without food and have no hope of their next meal. (OK, that acounts for breaking into stores to steal water and granola bars, it doesn’t explain the looted guns and jewelry and plasma TVs.)

  18. How about offering to take them to the local Walmart to get stocked up on the necessities. Or watching the kids while they go.
    Some childrens books and toys are probably an excellent idea. They’d be in school right now and it can’t be easy seeing everyone else go to school while you’re stuck in a hotel room.

  19. Unlike you, I’ve been avoiding the coverage as much as possible. Post-9/11 coverage of any disaster is just too much for me to take, and in this new world of instant news that seems to be everywhere, I know all I need to know about the horror and despair whether I want to or not. It wrenches my heart and brings me, a non-cryer, to bitter tears. I’ve made one contribution to Mercy Corps and will do so again, one each month, for as long as it takes.
    For your hotel refugees, there are so many good, kind-hearted, thoughtful suggestions already. Anything that smacks of normalcy would be a great comfort to them, I’m sure. Holler if you need help.

  20. Great idea. I’m sure they’ll be really pleased to know somebody thought of them and wishes them well. Some old magazines to read, munchies, crayons and coloring books, cheap outdoor toys (jump rope, kite, something so they don’t have to stay inside the hotel all the time).

  21. Me again. On a hunch, I checked the website for my local paper, and sure enough … tomorrow’s edition will have information on how we in Tallahassee can help the hurricane refugees who have taken shelter among us. Please, if you are reading this from *anywhere* in the South, remember that you may be able to help storm victims locally, as well as through national organizations. Ann, your post was a timely reminder to us all.

  22. Craigslist.org is currently collecting a lot of private offers tyo help the Katrina refugees.

  23. ….your hearts are in the right place…..everyone’s motto should be….”don’t give ’til it hurts…. give ’til it feels good.”….and give and give and give. we have so much of this world’s goods….and they have absolutely nothing.

  24. Hey Ann, I actually did call this late this afternoon and mobilzed my mama group into a Chuckwagon. We’ve got people going over there for the next 10 days dropping meals (they are moving tomorrow into an apt.). They are making me a list of needs (shampoo etc.) that I have a couple of other people working on as well. She said they were exhausted and confused and blessed and felt guilty all at once. Her husband is on his way up and I even gave him directions over the phone. Let me know if you do end up going over and I’ll let you know what days my girls are going over so we don’t overlap! xo

  25. For those willing to share their home — http://www.shareyourhome.org
    Please give to the Red Cross – it’s very easy online – http://www.redcross.org

  26. how about the use of your washer and dryer! Laundrymats cost a small fortune these days!