Life in Pearl River and Slidell
After Katrina

September 5, 2005

With five guys living at Jeff's house, without the ladies who make life so much nicer, there was a scramble to cope with the everyday realities. We had enough power from the generator to run the washing machine, but the dryer was right on the edge. So we hung out clothes in the back yard. Without air conditioning in the heat, and doing heavy outside work, we needed to do laundry often.

This picture also shows another aspect of our life there - the fuel depot. Beneath the swing set, covered by a tarp and disguised by pine branches on the back is our row of gasoline cans. There was a metal pole through the cans with a chain strung through it and padlocked to the heavy swingset on both ends. We had to have enough reserve to make the trip back, and we needed gas to run the generator and the chain saws. Gas was such a precious commodity at this particular time, there was some danger in making it too evident that we had some extra gas.


In this time of extremes, the sight of the amazing number of hummingbirds around the feeder was very touching. Usually very competitive, the hungry birds seemed to be cooperating so that all got something to eat. At right there were 12 hummingbirds at the feeder at one time.

This cooperation only lasted 2 or 3 days. Once the birds had gotten a little food, they went back to their squabbling ways, with one bird trying to take possession and run away the rest.

We were all struggling in spirit with the enormity of the damage, and could take some comfort in the fact that everyone we saw was trying to help - the hard work and cooperation was very inspiring.

Jay and Perry headed to Grace Memorial Baptist Church to help with the relief effort there. Jeff Moyle was working feverishly to get his medical equipment business back in working order and also helping direct the relief teams based on his knowledge of the area and its needs. Jeff Nave and I were planning to go back to the Moyle house to finish securing it, but we got a call from Debbie Ringo that Tom would be in to the Slidell Airport about 11 AM with a contingent of marines. We caught up with Jeff Moyle and the three of us headed out to the airport.

As we passed over I-10 on the way into Slidell, we saw this armored column headed toward New Orleans. Because the twin-span I-10 bridge over Lake Ponchartrain had been knocked out by the storm, they had to go up to I-12 and across to the west to enter the city.

When we got to Grace Memorial Baptist Church, we found it like an anthill of activity, distributing aid supplies. Perry Matherne, left, and Jay Victory were helping to carry water to those who needed it.

Grace Memorial: A center of relief effort

We arrived at the Slidell Airport to wait for Tom's helicopters to arrive. As can be seen behind Jeff's head, the main building lost a big part of its roof in the storm and a trailer had blown over.

Waiting on the runway for the helicopters, we heard the sound of the rotors before we saw the two helicopters appear over the trees in the distance. The above is an attempt to picture the sequence of approach. We were surprised to see them circle to the end of the runway and come down the runway almost like a fixed-wing aircraft before settling on the runway.

One of the first things that hits you is how large these Sikorsky CH-53 series helicopters are! They are as big as a lot of fixed-wing craft. The nominal lifting capacity of this series is 7 tons, and the MH-53J Pave Low III version is the most powerful helicopter in use by the military.

We certainly got a close view of the massive craft as they taxied by us.

They came to a stop close to the main hangar of the small airport.

The marines, including Tom, disembarked from the back cargo door.

Major Tom Ringo checked in with the airport personnel to perform his official duties of checking in the marine contingent for this location, and then got to speak a moment with his two brothers-in-law, Jeff Nave and Jeff Moyle. Tom's wife Debbie was at home in Corpus Christi, while the Jeff's wives Darla and Leslie were at our house with the Moyle's and Diane Wells. It actually turned out to be a little more than just a family visit: we were able to provide transportation for the four-man marine team over to the hangar where they were going to set up.

Tom was only on the ground for about 15 minutes, dropping his four-man team under the command of Lt. Mark Shultz, at far left above. Tom climbed back aboard and the two helicopters started taxiing out.

As the helicopters prepared to leave, Jeff Moyle pulled his pickup out to the runway so the marines could load the box containing the mobile air traffic control hardware they were to set up.

Jeff pulled his pickup into the hangar where they were going to set up camp, and two marines unloaded the box that contained the air traffic control equipment.

We were all pleased to be able to be of some assistance to the marines who had come to help with the relief effort.

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