Hurricane evacuees share tears, fears, frustrations
Sept. 6, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Jane Dennis
Hurricane evacuee Farrah Boudreaux, 12, is staying with her family at a shelter at First United Methodist Church in Dumas, Ark.
By Jane Dennis*
DUMAS, Ark. (UMNS) — Tears streaked down Adlay Callahan’s face and her voice shook with emotion.
can’t they get them out? Why can’t they help the old people?” she
asked, waving her hands. “I just don’t understand why. I could come up
with an evacuation plan! I could tell them how to get water and food
Then, in a softer tone, she said, “I’m just tired … tired and frustrated with our city.”
was one of thousands of evacuees from hurricane-stricken areas pouring
into Arkansas and neighboring states, arriving with a suitcase, a few
dollars and a load of fears, tears and frustrations. The number of
displaced people in the state was not known, but the American Red Cross
said Arkansas could expect as many as 30,000 more evacuees.
and 16 other family members left their New Orleans homes Aug. 28, the
day before Hurricane Katrina made landfall and caused the levee breaches
that obliterated the city. In a caravan of cars, they zigzagged on
northbound highways and backroads for hours, stopping at 2 a.m. in the
Wal-Mart parking lot at Dumas, some 350 miles away from the desperation
and chaos of New Orleans. Callahan’s husband stayed behind, figuring he
could weather the storm. She hasn’t heard from him since she left.
weary travelers found their way to First United Methodist Church in
Dumas, where they stumbled into the care of “a band of angels,”
according to one observer. The church was prepared, organized and ready.
Cots, blankets and towels were waiting, food was stockpiled, children’s
toys were on hand, and televisions were set up.
the church was overflowing with more than 70 evacuees. At meal time,
the numbers increased to about 150, as other displaced families at area
place is such a blessing,” said Shawanda Robertson, watching her
daughter, Satoria, play with other children on the playground. “I’ve
never met a group of people so nice.”
escaped New Orleans with her two children and her father, Bobby
Robertson. Her mother was in the hospital awaiting surgery when the
evacuation notice came. Nurses told Robertson the patients were to be
transferred to another facility, but in the confusion she couldn’t find
out if that occurred.
of the evacuees arrived at the church in a state of shock, but with the
passage of a few days, they were coming to terms with the enormity and
reality of the disaster.
big picture is there’s nothing to go back to,” Robertson said. “But I
also have family missing, I don’t know where my mother is ...”
Her voice trailed off as she watched Satoria scamper up the playground slide.
|A UMNS photo by Jane Dennis
Hurricane evacuees from New Orleans stay in Sunday school classrooms at First Church Dumas.
“You try to be strong for the kids, but they don’t have a clue what’s going on,” she said, dissolving into tears.
The unknown haunts many.
don’t know if your house is still standing or not,” said Kimberly
Boudreaux, who sat on a cot next to her husband, Frederick, and
12-year-old daughter, Farrah. “We don’t even know where some of our
“It’s the helplessness that hurts the most,” Callahan said.
the shelter’s televisions tuned to CNN around the clock, the Boudreauxs
caught a glimpse of their elderly, wheelchair-bound aunt waiting for
help at the overcrowded New Orleans Convention Center. They remained
distraught, not knowing if she was moved to a safe place. When Arkansas
Conference Volunteers in Mission coordinator Don Weeks of Little Rock
visited the Dumas shelter, he and the family stood in a circle, held
hands, and prayed for the family’s safety and future.
Weeks left, Frederick Boudreaux came bounding through the church,
announcing he had received a call and learned that a cousin who is a
police officer had located the elderly aunt and was helping her move to
“We are so relieved,” Boudreaux exclaimed. “I guess that prayer worked.”
*Dennis is editor of the Arkansas United Methodist, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church’s Arkansas Area.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.