Spring break after Katrina

by Abbie Crane

Chris Waddle, chaplain and director of church relations, led a group of eight students into Mississippi to assist people whose homes were damaged by the hurricanes six months ago for one of the spring break trips offered through the Religious Life Community.

Waddle said the students were very surprised at the amount of damage so far from the coastline.

“They were very impressed by the power of the storm,” Waddle said.

Sophomore Megan Mash said she couldn’t believe the amount of damage done to the area.

“When we got to the coast, I couldn’t believe that there used to be a community there,” Mash said. “It really looked like a war zone.”

Other students were also surprised by the amount of cleaning still needing to be done.

“I was really amazed by the destruction still evident in the area,” sophomore Kristy Prescott said.

The group of students had to gut a house which had previously been under five feet of water.

“One could tell how high the water got by looking at the walls,” Prescott said.

Students had to remove all fixtures, cabinetry, nails and interior walls to prepare the house to be sprayed for mold. Waddle said they didn’t know if the house was salvageable but it would be cheaper for the owner if they re-did the interior rather than rebuild the entire house, so they did as they were asked and gutted everything.

“It was amazing what we started with and what we ended with,” Waddle said.

Mash said it was a tough job. She said just when they thought they got everything out; they’d find something else they needed to do. She was happy to be able to help so the owner could start rebuilding and have a home again.

“If I were in the same situation, I would want someone to come help me,” Mash said. “I figured it was the least I could do.”

Prescott said the locals were very welcoming and she enjoyed talking to them and hearing their stories.

“One man even told Chris that we give the people hope,” Prescott said. “That really inspired me to keep going.”

Sophomore Sarah Harms said she enjoyed the trip, despite the very difficult work. She said everyone pitched in and gave it their all to make the best out of a bad situation.

“No one knew what we were getting into,” Harms said. “And when we finally got to work, no one thought twice about quitting.”

Waddle said he was very impressed with the students’ attitudes and work ethic.

“I was very impressed with the students because they jumped in and worked hard,” Waddle said. “It was disgusting, but they worked hard.”

He also said they were very focused while on the trip. They always made sure they were rested enough to work hard the next day, but they still had fun.

The destruction of the area left a big impact on all who were involved with the trip. Waddle said seeing everything helped put things into perspective.

“We’re not as secure as we might think we are sometimes,” Waddle said.

Harms said she was strongly impacted by the sites along the coastline.

“Seeing the destruction that was caused was a humbling experience,” Harms said. “It made me really thankful for what I have.”

Mash, Prescott and Harms all said getting to know everyone who went on the trip was also a great part of the experience.

Prescott said the car rides were very long, but she enjoyed talking to everyone in the car and getting to know everyone.

“The people that went were awesome people,” Prescott said. “I’m really happy I got to go with them.”