Sunday, March 5, 2006

First Impressions

by Robert Fox

March 5, 2006 – Today we began to see the extent of the damage from the storm. As we got within 150 miles of the coast, it seemed that the damage from the storm began to be apparent.

Trees blown over, snapped at the base and pulled out of the ground were the first signs of damage. After that it was leftover debris that had been washed inland, and cars and a few businesses and homes that had been damaged. The area was of the type I recognized too well – areas of such poverty that it is impossible to tell what was destroyed before vs. after the storm.

We got into a town along the coast where the extent and range of the damage was much more apparent. At least once a mile there was a business that still had damage (the rest of the shopping center to which the Big K-Mart was attached was demolished) although it was more common for the businesses to have just cut their losses and leave.

When we got to the coast we found that there was still debris on the beach, some of which were items that were obviously the tattered remains of people’s lives. Along the shore there was a headless doll body floating in oil contaminated water and a place where people had set fire to the remnants of the dock to make a fire and lift a few beers behind from what may have been their farewell to their homes.

What used to be a state highway had collapsed into the ocean; an avenue of what used to be bars and restaurants was now 50 yards of sand between the foot-high remnant of the sea wall and the empty, storm-beaten houses up the ridge; and, on the last standing bits of the former dock, a tattered American flag waving in the ocean breeze. The destruction is even worse for how much was completely removed without any ability to tell what was there before.

The loss, powerlessness, and hopelessness felt by these people is going to be hard to really get a grip on completely. But I hope I can help a great deal, and maybe, by working and filling my week with toil, I can forget about my own problems while helping others.

Robert Fox is a Coe College senior from East Troy, Wis., majoring in biology and philosophy.