Saturday, August 04, 2007

Extreme Makeover, Sabine Pass Edition

*** Scroll down for updates ***

ORIGINAL POST - August 19, 2006

© Fayrouz Hancock

Last September Hurricane Rita made landfill in Sabine Pass, a small community in Southeast Texas. The hurricane destroyed everything. The Sabine Pass K-12 school was one of the only buildings that withstood the hurricane.

When the school reopened, the students lived in tents because their homes were destroyed. Still, the students went to school and made the best of their lives without complaint.

In March, the Extreme Makeover team came to help the Sabine Pass community. But, which family should it help? All the families were devastated by Rita. So, they decided to help in ways to benefit the whole community.

The Sabine Pass School is known for its theater. The school's auditorium sustained great damage from Rita. The Extreme Makeover team, with the participation of Mainstage Theatrical Supply, rebuilt the theater for the community and it looks really good.

© Fayrouz Hancock

The Extreme Makeover team also rebuilt the damaged fire station. The station lost everything. The team surprised the station by providing a brand new fire engine - sort of. It was actually a "loaner" truck for the show. However, the actual new truck was delivered yesterday. The truck was donated by E-One, the Ocala, Fla. The company built the truck with a few customizations for the Sabine Pass community.

© Fayrouz Hancock

E-One and the school administration ran a design contest for the fire engine logo. Three students came up with the winning logo. The logo features a shark, the school's mascot, swimming out of flames.

© Fayrouz Hancock

The students had the honor of inspecting the new fire engine after it arrived. The firefighters were happy to answer the kids' questions. You've got to love firefighters. They're the coolest guys in any community.

© Fayrouz Hancock

After the school celebration, the fire engine was driven back to its new home at the fire station. Cake and drinks were served to the event attendees.

© Fayrouz Hancock

The Extreme Makeover team made the fire station a must-see place. I love the kitchen and the break room. The entrance had the above display bench made from an old fire truck's parts and pieces such as a bumper and steel doors.

This last year taught me to appreciate the simplest acts of kindness toward people devastated by Hurricane Rita. I always thought I was tough because I once lived in a war zone. Then, I met many people who lost their homes and belongings, but still had a smile on their faces. I met people who appreciate their survival and rarely complain. For those people, I bow my head with respect. You taught me many lessons during the last year. I thought I knew it all until I met you.

UPDATE I - August 4, 2007
A resident of Biloxi, Mississipi which was hit and destroyed by Hurricane Rita wrote me a letter after reading this post. As requested by him, I share the letter with you. It's worth reading becuase it says what I always say about the strong people of the Gulf Coast:

Remember who we are.

We have had every bit of infrastructure and government stripped away, and we didn't despair or riot or loot or murder or make war. That is not who we are.

We are brave. We are compassionate. We are wise. We are strong. We are undefeatable. We build and we rebuild. We protect and we nurture. We are generous and we are patient. We help one another. There is right and there is wrong, there is what is important and what is not, and we are the ones who know the difference.

We are all this because we have been through the storm, seen the difference, and actually made the decisions.

I mean "we". You were an Iraqi. You have been an Australian. Now you're one of us.

Do not fear. We are here for one another. Remember who we are.


George in Biloxi

The letter brought tears to my eyes. I understood every word George said in his letter. The letter shames the national media and its tele-journalists. They paid the least attention to the other victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These are the people who don't complain because they're busy rebuilding their lives and communities. Each time I visit Cameron Parish, Louisiana, I'm amazed by its people's determination to rebuild their community. You'll never understand it until you experience it.

UPDATE II - August 7, 2007
The current issue of St. Anthony Messenger has an article by Pamela Bozeman from Biloxi, Mississippi on the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast in Mississippi. She writes about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi:

The beach I walked along and loved was now silent—littered with remnants of lives. Antebellum homes, businesses and landmarks were gone. Some places were laid so bare they seemed to have never been there at all. Memories collected over the course of a lifetime were washed away in Katrina’s rage. The destruction was complete—no one was left untouched.
In the aftermath of devastation, the outpouring of camaraderie has been evident everywhere. The goodness of people continues to shine in the face of disaster: neighbors helping neighbors, sharing what little they have so others can be comfortable.

Students from across the country conduct charity drives to replace victims’ personal belongings. Many on spring break skip resort beaches in favor of Mississippi beaches, fighting mosquitoes, reclaiming and rebuilding. Vehicles from neighboring states move through residential areas, laden with volunteers utilizing hard-earned vacation time to rebuild the homes of families they’ve never met. Arriving as strangers, they leave as friends, giving hope of a better tomorrow.

Still, when the national media remembers Katrina, it rarely mentions devastated places other than New Orleans. There's definitely no fair and balance in our media. There's an agenda that suits each national media outlet.

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