Sep. 14th, 2005


Sep. 14th, 2005 06:34 am
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Phil and his buddies arrived at the shelter about eight days after the hurricane. They were all beaten up, sunburned and dog-tired. Phil is a carpenter, Byron a shrimper. There were four of them, and they had never met prior to the storm. Phil told us their story over the next few days.

After the storm, each of them managed to gain access to a boat--Phil and Byron had pirogues, kind of a flat-bottom canoe. Phil noted, "I was one of them looters, but I wasn't keepin' the stuff for myself." They would enter stores and take whatever they could find--food, water, medicine--and row it across to the people in need. After a while the police would ask them to find particular items--certain medicines, a piece of equipment, and they would do their best to bring it back.

They also rescued people and brought them to staging areas where they could be taken to shelters. They worked day and night.

When martial law was declared, the police began to lock them up at night in the jail, letting them out in the morning so they could continue their work. They continued to do this until they were forced to leave New Orleans seven days after the storm. They were put on a bus and left on a freeway offramp in Baton Rouge, where they made their way to our shelter.

They were badly sunburned and all cut up. Most of them had infections from the toxic water they had been wading through. We treated them over the next several days, and had to send one of them to the hospital for IV antibiotics. He had to wait almost 12 hours to be seen. I was at the hospital with another patient at the time, and came out to see how he was doing. Even though his leg was hurting badly, he didn't complain. He said he could wait--that the doctors should take care of the sicker people first. He asked about the other guy I had brought to the hospital, who had had a heart attack, and asked me to relay his concern for him. I went up to the triage nurse to ask if he could be seen sooner, because he was a selfless hero, but even heroes have to wait.

Their legs eventually healed up, and most of them have now left the shelter to get on with their lives. Phil is optimistic--he wants to help rebuild, and there will be plenty of opportunity. When he was getting ready to leave, he came down to the clinic and gave us all big hugs. I gave him my address and phone number. I hope he calls one day. I always need to be reminded there are heroes that live among us.

phil and angie

Phil and Angie.

Angie is a city council member from a town in Alabama. She came down with one of the pediatricians and ended up working with us for about 4 days (more heroes!). I don't know who took this picture, but it was on Angie's camera, so we'll give her credit for it.
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