Devastation in area hit by hurricane still ‘surprising’


by Ben Frotscher

Students see hurricane damage first-hand

Sophomore Sarah Burton was one of 12 students who traveled to Mississippi and Louisiana to help with relief efforts in areas damaged by recent hurricanes.

Burton said the group was shocked at how badly damaged the region was.

“I was surprised at what a mess it was two months later,” Burton said.

Burton wanted to go to Mississippi for a number of reasons, but one reason was that she almost went to college in Louisiana. She said the experience was worthwhile and she plans to return during spring break.

“If it’s just helping one person, it is well worth it,” Burton said.

Chris Waddle, director of church relations, led the trip for the Religious Life Community. He said it was difficult talking to the students about what was there.

“I think shock set in,” Waddle said. “We just have trouble finding words for it. It really is devastation and I think that whenever we talked, there were no words to fully describe the experience.”

The group spent time helping clean up brush and tree limbs, as well as removing items and salvaging items from homes in the small town of Delisle, La.

“It’s overwhelming to go into someone’s house that is split in half and go through their belongings and help them decide what they are going to keep,”

Waddle said.

The group also spent time in Biloxi, Miss., where they all received a tour of the area to see the extent of the damage and what exactly had happened. They stayed in Perkinston, Miss.

Senior Amanda Haag said it was hard to describe it all.

“It was mile after mile of devastation,” Haag said. “You can’t really explain it. I took picture after picture and after awhile, I quit taking pictures because it wasn’t doing any justice.”

Waddle said he thought the damage looked worse in person. He added that it will take some time for the area to fully recover.

“My first impression was that it’s worse than it seems on TV, which I don’t think is usually the case,” Waddle said. “It’s going to take a long time to rebuild. It’s going to take more than five years and it’s going to be different.”

With rebuilding projected long into the future, Waddle said he hopes to have opportunities to return. According to Waddle, all of the students on the trip wanted to stay longer and they definitely wanted to come back in the future to help.

“They didn’t want to leave,” Waddle said. “They all expressed an interest in allowing other people to go because we definitely had more people that wanted to do this trip than we could actually take, which surprised me.”

RLC is planning on organizing a spring-break trip to somewhere in the hurricane-stricken area, but where exactly, is unsure.

Now that Haag is back in Iowa, she said her priorities have changed.

“I appreciate everything since I’ve been back,” Haag said. “I’ve reflected on everything I have and that I took for granted.”

Waddle said the time he spent in Mississippi and Louisiana was something he won’t ever forget.

“I had an excellent experience,” Waddle said. “It was definitely one of the highlights of my career in ministry.”