Ten years ago this weekend, we all held our breath as a gargantuan hurricane slammed into the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina was 400 miles across and carried winds of 140 mph.
On August 29, we woke up to horrifying scenes of disaster – 80% of New Orleans under water, people stranded on their roofs, 20,000 people packed into the Superdome that itself flooded and was without sanitation, food or clean water.
The day after the hurricane struck, this famous photo of President George W. Bush flying over the wreckage became emblematic of the aloof non-response of his administration and many government agencies.
We were all screaming at our televisions that more wasn’t being done.
But this was 2005, the year we all realized the Internet had the power to connect us one to one, no matter how far away we lived from each other. Cooper and I posted this to our blog:
Families who have lost everything are going to need so very much to get their lives going again.
Here at Been There, we want to establish a direct connection between those with things to donate and the people who need them. To do that, we are setting up a clearinghouse for anyone who has toys, clothes or other supplies to send directly to families.
Here’s how it works. If you have something to offer, respond to this post with what you have (and please be specific, for example if you have toys, say for what age group, how many, what sort of condition they’re in). Families in need are invited to respond to your post directly.
And if you’re here because you have a specific need, and you don’t see what you’re looking for, please use the comment section to tell us a little about your story and your needs.
And with that the Been There Clearinghouse was born. People flooded to our website to give. Within days, our blog couldn’t handle the traffic and programmers in Mexico, London and San Francisco jumped in to rebuild our site on WordPress.
You stunned us with your imaginative generosity. You gave used cars, airline miles, retooled Mac computers (nearly 800 of them!), homemade quilts, baby clothes, school supplies, even beauty parlor chairs to help rebuild a lost salon. Schoolchildren, church groups, neighborhood associations and alumnae groups came together to help people and families.
And you came to tell your stories.
Toni, who was 21 years old with three boys, said she knew she’d get through the dark days because she saw her grandmother rebuild after Camille. Toni wrote:
Many believe the government should be doing more for them. Me, I am just thankful to have the air mattress I sleep on and my family driving me crazy. I say I have seen the best and worst of humanity. I have seen riots over food and money, and I have seen complete strangers open their homes to give those who have no place to go a roof over their head. I have faith in my city and state, and I am with my government in saying that we will rebuild, not just buildings, but lives as well. It will of course take time and plenty of patience. For those of us that call south Mississippi home, it is worth it. Like a the phoenix from the fire my town will return as beautiful as was before Katrina, and I pray that the hardship of the last month, will be a lesson for the future.
Maddie wrote about how hard it was to get FEMA aid:
Try lugging an infant 2 miles to the nearest place that’s giving out goods. At that point all you have energy and room for is what food you can carry or fit in a stroller. What would be hugely helpful are shopping carts, wagons, wheel barrels, etc. Things that folks can fit things in if they don’t have transport. We have one bridge open in the whole Coast area, theres one way in and one way out. That’s it. The Red Cross and FEMA seems to love to put their help centers on the other side of the Biloxi Bay in Ocean Springs … the only way to get there is the highway or boat since that bridge is out. We aren’t allowed in the water and most of us don’t have cars to drive over there and we aren’t allowed to walk on the highways…how do you get help? You can imagine the frustration.
We heard that many of you had been through tough times of your own and people had come through for you then, and you wanted to do the same for others.
My house burnt down when I was a jr. in high school and people helped us, so I want to help someone else.
Last year, I delivered my youngest son prematurely in the middle of Hurricane Frances here in South Florida. I want to help.
We are a small town family in Six Lakes Michigan, and would love to help in any way that we can. We have 7 children and know first hand how hard life can be. Thank you for your time. Hope to help someone in need.
All of you who came to the Been There Clearinghouse ten years ago helped to bring to life a new form of giving – connected giving – where you found each other, one-to-one, so that whatever was there to be given went to a person or family who needed exactly that, often in a wrapped package with their names on it, and a thoughtful, heartfelt note inside.
The response by all of you, across the country and around the globe, woke us up to the power of the web, in particular the power of moms online. You inspired us to create The Motherhood in 2006. It was your heart, story telling, and generosity of spirit that catalyzed us. We created The Motherhood because we wanted to build on your power of connection, conversation, caring and resourcefulness.
Nearly 2,000 people died and more than a million people were displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and many people along the Gulf Coast are still recovering. This weekend we are thinking of all of you who lost loved ones, who lost your homes, your neighborhoods, your businesses, and your communities ten years ago. We hope with all our heart that you’re doing okay today, and the last ten years have been good to you.
And we’re thinking about the tremendous outpouring of love, concern and giving that happened across the country in response to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Thank you for giving of yourselves, for caring so much, and for inspiring us to create The Motherhood.