August 29, 2006
It’s a somber day for Chadd Bryant.
Today is the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall and the 33-year-old is probably feeling a little sadder than his Windsor neighbors.
Bryant knows how the displaced residents of the Mississippi towns of Bay St. Louis and Waveland are feeling, but not from seeing the destruction on television or looking at photos in a magazine or newspaper.
Bryant’s been there in the trenches trying to help people move back into their homes.
“The tears do flow daily. You cry with the people,” said Bryant, who will be making his fifth relief trip Oct. 7 to Bay St. Louis, just 51 miles east of New Orleans, with church members from Crossroads Church in Loveland and any other volunteers.
Just five days after Katrina hit last year, Bryant and three of his friends drove in a minivan 24 hours and joined a chainsaw crew to help out. They cleared trees off homes, cars and roads for four days in the Mississippi towns of Prentiss and Columbia. Bryant bought food and passed it out to people he’d never met before.
Helping out Katrina victims has become a way of life for Bryant and his church. The church has made a five-year commitment to help. So far, 250 people from the church have traveled to the area and 50 more are scheduled to go in October.
“Very few people have heard of Bay St. Louis because New Orleans got all the press,” Bryant said. “That’s actually where the eye of the hurricane came to shore. At least the first eight blocks along the beach are just splintered timber. Just recently, they began to actually clear all that timber, which was about eight feet deep.”
Bryant returned last November to remove muddy drywall, carpet and couches.
“It was the most disgusting thing you’ve ever seen,” said Bryant, who also went down in March and May.
Lorie Ketcham, 39, of Windsor went on a relief trip last May and couldn’t believe what she experienced.
“It made me cry that in your own country there are still people who have nothing,” Ketcham said. “You can go to third-world countries and see that, but in our own country? To see the tears and thankfulness in their eyes was really neat.”
Bryant said Bay St. Louis is only 10 percent of where it was before Katrina. He and his church have helped two families get back into their homes, while the rest of the people are living in tiny trailers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Bryant said he hopes to recruit as many people as possible for the upcoming relief trips.
“We don’t want people to just remember Katrina. We want people to help out with Katrina,” Bryant said. “It’s so sad. Sometimes I’ll sit on the couch with somebody and they’ll cry for two hours telling me their story, and I’ll cry right along with them.”
To volunteer in the on-going relief efforts, call 970-674-0079.