Saturday, August 28, 2010
Katrina Anniversary... What 5 Years Can Bring
Typically anniversaries are a time of celebration- celebrating a marriage or something similar, seems it's always the celebration of something's beginning. Therefore it seems a bit strange to celebrate an "anniversary" of Hurricane Katrina hitting the Gulf Coast and bringing such destruction and in essence an end to so many things. That said, 5 years ago yesterday Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast and changed the lives of countless people, including my own. As I think back on my role in the Katrina recovery and the intensity and singular purpose of my work there (helping people get back on their feet and in their homes), it becomes a bit easier to think of this anniversary as a time of celebration. While there is much recovery yet to happen on the coast (especially in light of the most recent BP travesty), there has also been much progress and the wonderful people there have emerged stronger and in many cases the necessity to rebuild has led to a rebirth of school systems, the arts, restaurants, tourism, etc.
I went down to the Gulf Coast in my dad's pickup truck loaded down with supplies to help out for "a few weeks" right after the hurricane hit 5 years ago. Little did I know that a few weeks would turn into months and then more than a year as I started a life-changing non-profit operation to rebuild homes through the Presbyterian Church in Bay St. Louis, MS. As this operation ramped up, I was recruiting volunteers from around the country and was soon employing upwards of 120 volunteers daily to work in the community free of red tape. For me personally, this was a very special time and although the work was harder than any I've ever done, the feeling of being exactly where you're supposed to be and helping others with your whole spirit was pretty incredible. Not only that, but I met my wonderful wife Kirsten on the coast, as she came down from Seattle to volunteer with the very first group of volunteers to my operation. I couldn't be happier with the way Hurricane Katrina changed the course of my life. Now 5 years later, not only are Kirsten and I happily married, but we have 2 beautiful baby girls who I can't help but think wouldn't be here if it weren't for Katrina. People often speak of looking for the silver lining when bad things happen, and 5 years out from Katrina the silver lining is more clear than ever. We still pray for recovery to continue on the coast and know that things will never be the same there, but I am also so grateful for the time we had on the coast and the way it altered the course of our lives forever. Here are a few pictures of my Katrina silver lining;