Where Is The Light? Hurricane Katrina Report from Michael Pate

author : Michael
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By Michael Pate
When Big Boys Tri

All my life, I have been told to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. In the past week, with the hurricane devastation in Alabama, Mississippi, and in my home state of Louisiana, I didn’t think I could see even a glimmer of light.

In the brutal, devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we’ve all watched helplessly as the city of New Orleans and its surrounding areas – most of the Gulf Coast, in fact – crumbled before our eyes. How many of us have sat glued to our televisions, watching, hoping, praying?

We’ve all seen the looks of desperation on the faces of evacuees. Some have lost everything except the items that they quickly packed into a suitcase – in some situations, they have only the clothes on their backs. We’ve seen people who know that their businesses don’t exist anymore. We’ve seen others who don’t know if they even have a place of employment. We’ve clenched our fists in frustration as we’ve seen people – Americans on American soil! – dying from starvation, thirst, and exposure to heat. We have watched with hurting hearts as parents held hungry, sick, dehydrating babies and children and we’ve thought of our own kids. I know I have hugged my own son and daughter a little bit tighter in the past few days, grateful that they are comfortable, safe, and fed.

But just when I was beginning to think that life is consumed by only darkness, just out of my sight, there it was…

A glimmer of light.

Our tri club forum – usually full of the normal race trash talk - suddenly had a post telling us how the tragedy had reached us. Overnight, our relatively small city had become home to many thousands of evacuees. They had a safe place to stay, but they had so many basic needs. Someone suggested that we should collect food and other necessities for the American Red Cross. A box was placed at the local bike shop and members were encouraged to drop off whatever they could. Within a few hours, the box was filled with powdered baby formula, diapers of all sizes, canned food, towels, toiletries, and hygiene products.

One of our members – a pharmacist at a local grocery store – told us that his store would allow us to buy non-perishable food items for a discount so we could stretch the dollar further. Other members came forth who were willing to cook and feed those who weren’t able to get into the shelters. Oh, and I can’t forget this. It’s a big one! Others decided that we all had race shirts that we had not worn and they would be great for those who needed a change of clothing.

Our forum was suddenly transformed into a source of information about the immediate needs of evacuees. We were suddenly told where we could go to drop off food and clothing. Babies had reached our local hospitals without their mothers and members went to rock them. We realized that evacuated children were being allowed to enroll in our local schools and needed school supplies and school uniforms. We were told where we should go to donate blood, serve food, or just go and be a shoulder to cry on.

Amidst all of the unbelievable, horrific, terrifying, negative things that were happening less than two hundred miles away, our little tri community was doing what we could in our own backyard. Even the race director of our State Championship in Lafayette, cancelled the race and gave all of the race shirts, Gatorade, water, and other miscellaneous items that could used in disaster relief, to local agencies without a second thought.

I come to the forums on Beginner Triathlete and what do I find? I find people willing to give to agencies to help those in need. I read about others contemplating not going to a race because they don’t feel quite right about it. Others are willing to offer their professional services in the medical field, so they are heading to the disaster area. There are some offering to pay for hotel rooms and help people financially and others trying to help find employment for evacuees or colleges for them to attend. The list goes on.

The tri community has been truly blessed to have such good-hearted people. But, I already knew that, and you certainly did, too. We are a bunch of folks who accept each other for who we are - even with our faults. It’s not a matter of, “You are different from me, so why should I help you?” It is a matter of, “I can help you. What do you need?”

Thanks, fellow triathletes, for showing America – especially my little corner of it - what you are made of. It is said that in the midst of great tragedy, great heroes arise. Some often criticize the expensive bikes, lycra shorts, and a lifestyle that they can’t imagine, but you always seem to rise above all the criticism and say “Here I am. How can I help?” That’s what true heroes are made of.

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and will to help others.”
~ Albert Schweitzer ~


Still Tri’n,
Michael

Copyright 2005 When Big Boys Tri

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date: September 4, 2005

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