My mom and little brother in front of what's left of a neighbor's house. In Pearlington, either a tree is in your house, or your house is in a tree. The water line of the flood was somewhere near the top of that roof draped over the branch.
I know what it looks like now to watch people fight for their lives, sinking in quicksand. And I'm shouting, help, look, and yet there's no cavalry to save the day, and the sheriff's fat and content and sleeping off his binge while people sink and die.
This disaster is huge, and getting bigger by the day. Like the mold that's slowly eating all their lowly possessions, neglect and incompetence and cronyism are slowly eating these poor people alive.
My mom's little trailer was in Pearlington. After the storm, Pearlington started off ignored and has slowly devolved into forgotten. When I talked to the one FEMA inspector handling the whole town, he could barely look me in the eye. Not because he was a shady man, but I sensed, because he had been abandoned, too, and he knew the futility and impotence of his mission. Polishing brass on the Titanic would be too charitable a way to describe his task. More like, standing next to the brass, telling you he's going to be polishing it very soon, as soon as some cloth arrives.
Between you and me, the only help is going to come from you and me. Forget about FEMA. Forget about the Red Cross. We were hopeful when, after three weeks, a Red Cross truck showed up and started serving hot lunches. About the same time they began prepping the local school (where I shot the portraits of survivors) as a shelter for the people who were living in tents in their front yards next to the rubble of their homes.
The locals were shocked and frustrated with all the demands Red Cross had for the space before they'd use it.
"We need dehumidifiers." Says Red Cross.
"We need air conditioning." Says Red Cross.
"We need a 100k generator." Says Red Cross.
"We need to power wash the walls, maybe even repaint." Says Red Cross.
"We're afraid of being sued." Says Red Cross.
After waiting eight days (three weeks after the disaster) Red Cross left, and even took their hot lunch van with them.
I asked who's been helping, on the ground, really helping. The National Guard, the Salvation Army, the Southern Baptists. That's it.
Many people have asked how they can help directly, so I talked to some locals last night, the ones that I took portraits of in that sad broken school, and I asked them what the Outside World could send them. The list came back, pitifully long and basic. This is one month later, and still they need such basic things:
--Packaged socks, and underwear, all sizes (and I was told by a big girl not to forget the big girls in this size request)
--Daily toiletries, like deodorant, shaving cream and razors, and soap (including laundry soap)
--Bug spray and sunblock
--Daily staples like coffee, sugar, salt, pepper
--Towels, all sizes
--Clothes hangers and clothes pins
--Rubber boots, all sizes
--Lights and bulbs, in case generators ever show up
And the larger, lifesaving items, but harder to ship:
--Generators (still no power down there)
--Chain saws (there are thousands of trees down everywhere)
--Tents (not for camping, for living)
--Air mattresses (because sleeping on the ground for a month really sucks)
On the medical front, they're trying to set up a medical clinic to serve people who may be injured by the debris while cleaning up, and the large poverty-stricken elderly population, and I spoke with the volunteer doctor who was working on that. She's asked for home blood pressure monitors, nebulizers for asthma patients, and thermometers. She also pleaded for any doctors, nurses, or assistants to come down and volunteer at the clinic, even if just briefly. There are many poor patients down there who haven't gotten social security or Medicare checks since the storm hit, and many of their medical referrals were to New Orleans, now also gone as an option. And the state of Mississippi is notorious for not caring for it's citizens medical needs.
So, if you have any of these things, or skills, and want to step in to fill the huge gap our government has left, please send them to:
c/o Operation Eden
6096 1st Street
Pearlington MS 39572
Because, it's just you and me here. This isn't a two-week issue. It's not a two-month issue. This is long term. Do you want to live in a world where it's every man for himself?
Update: USPS (government) mail might not make it to the school, as it's being forwarded to
Also, I can't verify delivery or receipt of any packages sent down to the school. I'm in touch with them, and will try my best to find out what they need, and that they're getting things, but I'm not able to monitor or control anything, as I'm just one guy with a camera, trying to put the word out and help his family.