September 9, 2005

"It's an overwhelming expectation that I feel."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports on an overnight bus trip, bringing Katrina evacuees — "five single men, a family of five, and a mother and her two grown daughters" — to Madison:
[Dane County social workers Rita] Adair and her partner in this rescue effort, Jenny Grether, rode in the back of the quiet bus, fielding calls from volunteers with questions and making plans for the return to Madison, expected to be some time this afternoon.

Grether reflected on her hopes for the group.

"Most importantly, that people can find a sense of happiness, peace and hope within their families. Hopefully they'll be able to connect with one another in a way they haven't been able to at shelters. For the single men, who have lost everything, I hope they'll be able to connect to a neighborhood and a larger community that is willing to try to support and understands what needs to happen to rebuild lives."

Adair said the effort, while worthwhile, has been difficult because she doesn't want to let anyone down - neither those in need nor their supporters in Madison.

"So many people gave so much in so many ways, that that became a vehicle of what I am expected to do," she said. "It's an overwhelming expectation that I feel."

How many stories like this are there all over the country? What an unusual situation to break up a large urban community and have very small segments of it welcomed into communities all over the country, into places that are much different from New Orleans. It can't be easy for people to leave home and come to a new place, even when the people in the new place are full of altruism and eagerness to help. Thanks to the good people who make great efforts to help tiny groups of Katrina evacuees like this.


Mary E. Glynn said...

My wish is that groups of evacuees that are brought to northern places like Madison are not forgotten come, say, February or March.

That is, I'm sure the evacuees will be supplied with long underwear and winter hats, gloves, coats, etc. in November and December, when the cold weather first sets in. And they will learn to eat "fatty" foods, like soups and cheese to keep the body protected from the cold.

But my real adjustment (and I came from the Chicago area) to the weather the first years I lived here came in the late winter months -- March and April -- after months of dull grey and white landscape. Where the hell is Spring?

It seems the weather here is about a month and a half behind what you expect a little further south. The key is to embrace winter, get outside and enjoy a sport, or learn to constructively hibernate. Otherwise, depression can set in.

I can't imagine the adjustment these people will have to make to the weather alone, and I know it will take at least a winter or two, to learn to prepare and adjust. It's a long-term relocation project, and I hope we have adequate follow-up here for them.

Be said...

Mary - at first I was wondering this with the evacuees we're getting up here in MA:

In many ways, the climate up here is colder than what they're used to, I'm sure. Given how wonderfully adaptive people can be,(Eastern Massachusetts has large Latino and Southeast Asian communities - many of whom left their homes under duress as well), I think they'll manage okay.

Beth said...

I am grateful every day for the wonderful people of our country. My friend, who's the sort people gather around, is sheparding a group of 10 around his family home-town of Urbana-Champagne, and the people there have been so kind. The child with them is in school, happy and safe (though I imagine his thick N'awlins accent is impenetrable to his new little pals), and someone in the neighborhood scrounged up a bike for him. These are the things that will shape how he sees the world as an adult.

I am wondering what will be the result culturally down the line. There've been migrations from the South before, but not like this. Will New Orleans culture fade in the children of the people who don't return? Will it adapt and change?

Mister DA said...

It's happened before. Recently. The dispersion of the Vietnamese refugees in 1975. Due to language and cultural considerations, the numbers resetteled in any given area tended to be larger, but very similar, nonetheless.

Joe said...

Here in Tucson, evacuees are also encountering a very different atmosphere than what they left behind.
I was talking to a friend in law enforcement here who mentioned that the city police force is offering overtime opportunities to assist at the Tucson Convention Center but is highly encouraging the participation of officers of color. I wonder with all the sensitivity concerning race around the whole disaster, if this is the best approach to take?

somross said...

I brought my new group of 25 college advisees on a community service project today to a homeless shelter/food pantry/soup kitchen in suburban Chicago that expects to take in about 50 to 75 Katrina evacuees in addition to the population they usually serve. I have no idea how long they will stay. Some of us were sorting clothes; people were dropping them off at one entrance almost faster than we could sort. At another door, no more than 30 feet away, people patiently lined up in the heat to get bags of groceries from the food bank. One woman who was donating brought a few hundred dollars worth of toothpaste and toothbrushes. "They were two for one at Target," she said modestly. One of my students (who at 18 had already volunteered in Sri Lanka) took notes about what products they really needed (diapers, laundry detergent, baby food,juice, new underwear)and in about 20 minutes devised a contest for wings of the dorm to compete (more points for desirable items) to return with lots of stuff in a few weeks.

XWL said...

To hope that the lives of the (mainly black) evacuees not only return to normal but eventually that they will prosper as they make homes for themselves in new communities is seen as alturism.

But to say as Barbara Bush somewhat clumsily expressed that these people were already in a bad way before the hurricane and that the shock of the new and seeing up close the way other people (like the people of Texas) care for folks that aren't there kin will be the biggest factor in allowing them to turn around there lives has been twisted into Marie Antionette style let them eat cake-ism.

So people in Madison are duly concerned while the Bill Maher's of the world portray Barbara as being the clueless racist who raised George to be the evil chimp he became (Maher essentially said as much on Real Time this Friday).

I think the situation here is analoguous to the end of Six Feet Under (which I've already stated my problems with).

Everyone was stuck in bad habits while Nate was alive, everyone was playing familiar roles, but after the shock of his death at a young age everyone around him reevaluated their lives and made the hard decisions necessary to get out of the morrass they found themselves in.

Hopefully the Katrina survivors will behave in a similar fashion. The dislocation from their dysfunctional lives may lead to the kind of introspection that will lead to action and change. With the help of the communities that absorb them they will have plenty of positive role models on how to do better than what they did before.

Those that had it together before the storm hit, will get it together quickly after, those that were surviving day by day may find the promise of a new existence exactly what they needed.

Needless to say, there will be many for whom the opposite will be true, this will cause solid families to fly apart and marginal lives to slide into total dissolution, but I believe that most people have reserves of strength they are unaware of and once those reserves are tapped they leave the strength behind even after the crisis has passed.

We will see which stories get told more often over the next few years, both stories will be available, the tragedies and the triumphs, but I have enough faith in humanity to believe that the continuing triumphs will outweigh the continuing tragedies.