After wreaking havoc across the Dominican Republic and Haiti, killing at least 21 people and forcing thousands to evacuate, Hurricane Isaac pounded the Gulf Coast with heavy rains and high winds on the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Phyllis Freeman, World Vision’s domestic disaster response director, remembers that fateful day seven years ago and shares her thoughts on our current response to Isaac.
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It’s been seven years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall, but the destruction remains vivid in my mind, as if it happened yesterday.
Hundreds of homes in what seemed to be every neighborhood were devastated as our disaster response team drove from New Orleans International Airport through the city.
We went past Six Flags amusement park and trees that had been submerged for so long that it seemed like they were dead and could not possibly live again in the coming spring.
Eastern Orleans Parish was completely dark, with the exception of a single light in the distance as we passed apartment buildings, churches, and businesses. I remember thinking about the thousands of families gone from just this small area who might not return for years, if ever.
World Vision responded to the needs of families from the Gulf Coast through our North Texas location, in partnership with churches, organizations, and schools. I knew that we were entering into a long and difficult recovery as buses arrived, filled with evacuees — bus after bus after bus.
Churches and organizations worked endless hours helping to make sure that families had shelter, food, personal hygiene items, and other supplies. At times, it was overwhelming. Would we have enough supplies to support and care for so many? The need seemed endless.
But in standing side-by-side with our partners, and hearing the survivors’ stories, a spark of hope was ignited once again.
World Vision is constantly noting lessons learned from past disaster responses in order to help us become more efficient and effective in future ones — and Hurricane Katrina was no exception.
In its aftermath, we determined that World Vision and its corporate donors should establish community partnerships and position trained disaster response staff and relief supplies in strategic locations across the country to reduce our emergency response time — no matter where disaster strikes in the United States.
Today, this strategy of pre-positioning is working successfully as we equip our team to respond to Hurricane Isaac. We have relief products already stationed in Jackson, Mississippi, and Grand Prairie, Texas. These supplies will be shipped to three of our partners in New Orleans and Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
Trained response staff in Grand Prairie and Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will travel to flooded communities along the Gulf Coast to help provide assistance for affected children and families.
Looking back over the years since Hurricane Katrina, I realize that there is always hope in the aftermath of disasters, as symbolized by that single light we saw while traveling through a devastated New Orleans.
It was faint, but it was there to act as a guide to all who are in need of help. This year, we hope that those suffering at the hands of Hurricane Isaac and other disasters will find a similar light.
Read more about Hurricane Isaac and World Vision’s planned response. Please keep affected children, families, and communities in prayer during this difficult time.
In the aftermath of emergencies that take place right here in the United States, World Vision works with corporate donors and local partners to ship and distribute pre-positioned relief items to survivors.
Make a one-time donation to World Vision’s U.S. Disaster Response Fund. Your gift will help us continue to respond quickly and effectively to domestic disasters that threaten lives, like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Isaac.