My First Disaster
By: Kathryn Hearn
They say you never forget your first disaster. For me, it occurred this summer as I was part of the team from MAP International responding to the floods in Louisiana. Louisianans are no strangers to flooding conditions, but this flooding was unprecedented. Nothing could prepare me for what we were going to encounter. The destruction was widespread and heartbreaking.
I will never forget the smell. On our second day we visited one of the hardest hit cities, Denham Springs. An estimated 90 percent of structures were damaged from the torrential rainfall and 22 parishes total were declared major disasters. The putrid odor of must and mold was overwhelming in the neighborhood we visited. Everything had been left behind. The streets were lined with soggy drywall, couches, refrigerators and cars.
The water had receded, but you could still see the water line as if it was burned onto the side of the house as a constant reminder of the destruction. It was as if Denham Springs had been frozen in time. Everything was still and quiet. The only movement was the mud and dust that swirled around our van as we drove down the street.
First responders worked around the clock to help those who were affected. Organizations set up mobile distribution centers and brought water, food, cleaning supplies and more to families who had lost everything. Five hundred disaster kits were sent to our partners on the ground the week before we arrived and had already been distributed to families that were in desperate need of essential hygiene items.
I will never forget the impact of the donations we were able to provide. When we arrived at Our Daily Bread in Hammond, La we couldn’t unload and organize the supplies quick enough. Some supplies were headed out the door to help families in need before we pulled away from the building.
So many families lost everything. I’m so thankful to be a part of MAP’s disaster response team that brings help and hope in the greatest time of need. When you see natural disasters anywhere in the world you always hear people say it brings people together. I will never forget the outpouring of support and passion I witnessed from the humanitarian aid workers, volunteers, residents and people from around the country.
Now that I’m home, I’ll never forget the thousands of families that were affected. The water has receded, the cameras are gone, and aid has slowed down. Some families had begun their recovery process while we were there, others still continue.
Kathryn Hearn is the Marketing Communications Officer for MAP International. To learn more about MAP and their disaster responses visit www.map.org.