Wade in the Water

I have been thinking about Dorothy Day the past couple days. She references her experience of people coming together after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake as a defining moment in her life. She saw everyone coming together and helping each other without hesitation, without regard for race and class. Didn’t she say that she spent her entire life trying to find that feeling she had as a young child in those weeks after the earth shook and the fires rolled through the San Francisco and Oakland? Seeing the way people are coming together here, especially the way the churches are organizing and responding reminds me of the description Day shares in her autobiography and the way Day talked about doing church her entire life. I’ll be falling asleep on the floor of a sanctuary after I am done writing this. My sleeping bag is right next to the Eucharistic table, inscribed on the side is “Do this in remembrance of me”.

Today we went through a neighborhood of what used to be houses; now it’s a FEMA trailer park. We met families who just TODAY received their trailers. We went through People mostly said, bottled war, kitchen appliances, sheets, towels, etc. The FEMA trailers are empty. They are equipped with only a stripped bed, fridge and gas stove. The other social work student I was with and I met a woman who was supposed to give birth on the day Katrina hit. She called her doctor to ask if he could keep the baby inside her until the storm passed. As the water rose higher and higher she realized her family would die if they didn’t get out as soon as possible. She, her husband, her two year old son and the child yet to be born waded in chest high water to a boat and sailed to a two story building where they found refuge until the storm past. This is only one of the countless survival stories we have heard. It’s stories piled on top of stories. One man with a bad back that renders him disabled, swam to a telephone pole and tied himself to it with an extension cord and waited until the storm past. A husband and wife climbed to the very tops of very tall trees, where they stayed for 10 hours, until the 10-12 feet deep water drained. “We lost everything “ people told us with a smile and an out stretched hand. “Thank you so much for coming.” I wore my Catholic Worker shirt yesterday, with the Dorothy Day quote, “The only solution IS love.” One of the women we spoke to today asked if the church had any teddy bears. If I worked for FEMA I would make sure the FEMA trailers were stocked with kitchen appliances, towels, sheets, blankets, a six pack and a teddy bear.

Good Night.

Sara Suman

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