Remember Katrina victims, Decker urges
By Keith Manuel
December 13, 2005
CHALMETTE, La.(BP)—The three-month anniversary of Hurricane Katrina has come and gone, yet the devastation in the areas affected by the nation’s worst natural disaster remains a heavy weight on the hearts and minds of residents.
Danny Decker, the point man for the Missouri Baptist Convention MBC) Disaster Relief partnership with St. Bernard parish, has spent much time reflecting on why and how to continue the ministry efforts in the region.
“I heard a man say the other day, ‘When you have lived your life and you die, will it make any difference that you actually lived?’” Decker said. “I think the bottom line of this whole process is now causing us to ask the question, ‘Will we make a difference for St. Bernard parish after Katrina?’”
Charitable agencies are seeing Katrina fatigues slowing the once steady wave of volunteers, as people around the country ask why the area is not self-sufficient at this point and why the recovery is taking so long.
“Right now, the people aren’t here to do ministry with,” Decker said. “The homes are unpopulated. There is still no electricity. There is still no water. There is no medical system to support them. You have to be self-sustaining and you have to prove it to stay 24/7 in the parish.
“They are talking eight to ten months before they have the water, sewer, and electricity up. And really you need that to dry out the homes so that you can rebuild.”
Comparing Hurricane Katrina to other natural disasters creates a contrast to demonstrate the magnitude of destruction.
According to the Army Corp of Engineers, the Mississippi River Flood of 1993 damaged almost 48,000 homes and displaced 74,000 people with a death toll of 47. By Nov. 29, the death toll due to Katrina in Louisiana alone was 1,086, and 500,000 evacuated families in the region had received emergency aid. According to information released by the city of New Orleans on Nov. 30, only two of the city’s 18 zip codes have 100 percent electric and gas service available for customers whose homes are in a condition to accept the services. In St. Bernard parish, only some government buildings, water and sewerage plants, and a disaster relief center have power, and gas is not available to date.
Decker said the smells and the mud during the 1993 flood were similar to the New Orleans area, but the problems caused by homes and churches sitting in the salt water of Lake Pontchartrain for weeks have created a whole different scenario.
“We have nails corroding on the buildings, we have anchor bolts corroding,” he said. “There is a good chance they are in such a condition that they will not be safe.”
Not only is Decker concerned that Baptist volunteers remain vigilant in their efforts, he also wants St. Bernard and other New Orleans area residents to remain hopeful.
“We will remember you,” Decker said. “We are praying for you. We are here and we are willing, ready and able. When the time comes, when things are in place with permits and codes . . . and we can address the health issues, we will be here in numbers to help you.”