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The spirit of giving, seen all around

Katrina and Rita are becoming two of the most notorious females of our times, because of the massive devastation they caused in the Gulf Coast in recent weeks.
Much of the news from Hurricane Katrina first centered on New Orleans, understandably because of the vast numbers of people who were in harm’s way. The images were dramatic: Men, women and children were plucked from the rooftops of their homes to escape the rising waters of Lake Pontchartrain. We were also moved by the plight of the folks who were unable or unwilling to evacuate the city when they were told to flee. They found themselves stuffed inside the sweltering Superdome without electricity, food, water, toilet facilities and air-conditioning.
There have been ugly accusations that the issue was one of race, because most of those people who stayed were poor blacks. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, but if the issue were race, it certainly didn’t appear that way to this onlooker from afar. Instead, image after image on news broadcasts was of white people helping blacks: hoisting the stranded into helicopters and airlifting them to safety, or wading through deep water to rescue people caught inside their homes.
Broken levees caused much of this trouble in New Orleans. Lake Pontchartrain’s levees broke from all the rain dumped on the Coastal region. The meager flood control devise failed miserably, as everyone knew it would when a huge hurricane hit.
But here ‘ in our little community safe from hurricanes but at the mercy of tornadoes or earthquakes (don’t get uppity) ‘ the continuing story has been the response of Harrison Countians to the needs of our brethren.
First there was the urgent need to restore power to vast areas along the Gulf Coast, and workers were sent by Harrison REMC and Cinergy. The workers were paid, of course, but they faced unimaginable conditions. Yet they gladly persevered and were replaced by others who had the same desire to help.
There was also an urgent need to check on friends who were now living in coastal areas, and help all who were hurt by the storms recover with supplies, from Pampers to bottled water.
By now, we know it will take the survivors more than a full pantry to recover from the devastation. But still we try. People with big hearts continue to reach deep into their pockets to help through agencies like the Red Cross or Salvation Army while others try to help with direct assistance.
Those visitors to the region have said it’s impossible to get the full effect of the devastation from pictures in newspapers or on TV, because neither the screen nor the paper is wide enough. It was especially difficult to see people weeping, standing on the spot they once called home.
People here volunteered their homes to evacuees, hundreds of whom were expected to arrive in Louisville but never did, at least not to the extent initially expected. That’s too bad, because metro-Louisville was poised to help and could have eased some of the load on others. The point is, though, people would have been welcome here in our neck of the woods.
Businesses, too, stepped up. Some provided free help while others agreed to provide jobs.
The gambling industry was knocked off its foundation along the Coast. Big casinos were flipped onto their sides and thousands of people were put out of work. A call went out to all those communities that have, for years, raked in bucketloads of money in return for licenses to operate.
The Harrison and Floyd county foundations both chipped in, Harrison to the tune of $100,000 and Floyd $50,000, to help displaced casino workers.
The money may not seem like much to an industry used to working every day with millions of dollars. But it will seem quite a lot to the people it helps. This is just one more sign that our community has many residents who are filled with compassion for others. We are certainly not alone, so teamed with others blessed with the true American Spirit of helping those in need, rebuilding the Gulf Coast region shouldn’t take too very long.