Saturday, September 24, 2005

Day Eight - The Earth

I awaken shortly after midnight. The high winds of Hurricane Rita have knocked down one of the tents where sixteen EMTs and paramedics were sleeping. We need to push our cots closer together to make room for the temporarily homeless tent people.

I am soon back to sleep, and awaken on the tired side. I have a late breakfast of pancakes and sausage. I'm on the afternoon plane out of town so there is no going on the road today. I get an early lunch of cheesesteak, macaroni and cheese spiced with crawfish and spicy sausage, and a slice of apple pie.

I am sorry to be leaving. I think it was a great experience to be down on the Gulf Coast and to witness the strength and goodness of the people as they rebuild their lives after the storm's fury.

While waiting for the bus, one of the local workers comes over and says, "Thank you for coming. We appreciate it."

He holds out his hand and we shake.

"You're welcome. I know you'd come up for us if we needed the help."

"You can sure put my name on that list," he says.

As he walks away, I call after him, the words coming to me now. "Thank you," I say, "For showing us what's important."

He smiles. "Sometimes the littlest things -- that you sometimes forget about -- are the biggest."

I understand what he means.


At the airport, I learn my reservation has been canceled. There was a mixup in the reservations and I was supposed to be on the earlier flight. The other nine head to Atlanta and I wait in Gulfport for four hours till I can get a later flight. To make matters worse when I go through security, they pull me out of the line and practically strip search me. It was funny on the way down, not so funny now. I admit to being tired. The guards try to make small talk, but I am in no mood. I just hold my arms up silently. My zipper makes their electric wand go off, so my crotch gets patted down with the back of a gloved hand. I know they are just doing their job. Next I stand there while they meticulously go through my carry-on bag. At last I am clear. I make a connection in Atlanta and arrive back in New England after ten. The company division head picks me up, which is nice, but after he drops me at my car and takes off, the car won't start, and I have to find someone to jump me.

Home at last, I have a cold beer and sit again in the quiet. I think again about Mississippi and also about my trip to the Dominican. I am grateful for what I have seen this year, grateful to be healthy enough to help others, grateful to be able to walk the earth.