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Gratitude amid disaster

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mike Pierson
  • Warner Robins Air Logistics Center Public Affairs Director
When you wear a military uniform in New Orleans, they come at you from everywhere, these people who look like they've lost everything. Their eyes are a bit glazed. Their hands extended.

"Thank you for all you are doing here," they say. "Thank you for helping us."

Some break down in tears, telling stories of how they found their homes under four feet of water. Some keep a stiff upper lip, unwilling to let the devastation of Hurricane Rita break their spirit.

"At least my family is safe," one woman told me. Her college-age daughter nodded in agreement. "We'll rebuild our lives, thanks to people like you who have come down here to help us."

Coming to New Orleans to participate in the rescue and recovery of this great American city has been a powerful experience for me. The city is battered, bruised and abandoned. Thousands of military and civilian workers are here, saving lives, rebuilding infrastructure, and providing security so that New Orleans can get back on its feet again.

What has touched me the most is the spirit of those who call this city home. New Orleans is famous as a party town. It is also the home to thousands of artists, musicians, painters and others who are the cultural heart beat of this once-vibrant community. These people are proud of their unique city where the ancient cathedral downtown bears inscriptions, in French, from the early 1700s.

Outside the famous French Quarter, about half-a-million Americans once lived out normal lives. Thousands of them have lost nearly everything they own. They are living with relatives, in motels, some in their cars. Yet, every day I meet more New Orleans residents who are determined to see their city rebuilt, reborn, and revitalized.

"I'm happy to help," is all I can think to say when I receive their gratitude. I hope that if I'm ever in their position, my fellow Americans will show up to help me, too.