Thursday, September 29, 2005

Forgotten People

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
--Ice chests
--Clothes hangers and clothes pins
--Rubber boots, all sizes
--Gas cans
--Trash bags
--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:

Charles Murphy Elementary School
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 Waveland Bay St. Louis, and I don't know if anybody's picking it up. Locals confirm, though, that UPS and FedEx have been making deliveries to the school, so packages sent via those companies should work. See a trend? Government not working (FEMA, USPS), private groups working (UPS, FedEx, Salvation Army). It almost looks intentional.

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.


Anonymous said...

I just discovered this site last night. I'm linking to you right now, with a cut and paste of today's post and begging my readers to get over here and read the whole thing.

God bless you all. If I had any medical training, and the money to get down there, I'd be there. All I've got is my voice in my little corner of the cyber world, but I'm shouting out there for you.

cpj said...

What is the Red Cross doing? Where is that money going we give?

This is what we need more of, actual lists of things that are needed and where to send it all. Thank you, Siege. This is a human catastraphe, we don't need Kanye West to sing us "Jesus Walks" to entertain and inspire us to hand over credit card numbers, we need someone like you to stand up and show us what the true picture is.

God bless and take care.

cpj said...

What is the Red Cross doing? Where is that money going we give?

This is what we need more of, actual lists of things that are needed and where to send it all. Thank you, Siege. This is a human catastraphe, we don't need Kanye West to sing us "Jesus Walks" to entertain and inspire us to hand over credit card numbers, we need someone like you to stand up and show us what the true picture is.

God bless and take care.

Anonymous said...

A box is on the way from it's not much, but it's new and clean. A couple of ladies tops, towels, socks, and men's briefs. Tell the big girl the blue top is for her!

Please know that I am thinking of you and if possible will do more. I like the idea of sending things directly to the people who need it rather than pay for the Red Cross to advertise.

Anonymous said...

I will definitely try to gather some things to send down to your mom's little town.

I must note that the honesty and vulnerability in all of these images is heartbreakingly beautiful. I've visited your portfolio site and I hope that there's more work like this site coming from you. Not from a natural disaster (please do not take this the wrong way) but just because you have the talent. I agree that this site and its contents should be published as well somewhere down the line.


Tiggs said...

i'm plastering this link all over Clayton- along with the list of needed items and the address. I hope stuff starts rolling in soon. One question- is the MAIL delivering there????

Anonymous said...

Just info for those thinking about ordering goods via the internet and sending them down: will not send to Mississippi but Home Depot will.

Best of luck Serge, you and your family are in my thoughts.

Anonymous said...

I did mean siege, but I cannot type, not can I obviously proofread.

Amanda said...

Not to be redundant, but your photos are amazing. I especially appreciate the direct mail address to send things to. I will pack up my box tomorrow!!

Anonymous said...

" ZIP Code 39572 has the following status:

Your local post office delivery service is being restored. You may pick up your mail at the alternate post office location provided below.

Office Name: Bay St. Louis PO
Address: 1200 Hwy 90
City: Bay St. Louis
State: MS
ZIP Code: 39520
Hours of Operation: TBD"

That's what comes up at the USPS service update site for the zip code that Seige provided. SURPRISE! SURPRISE! It's really no help at all. All part of the pattern, right Seige.

Tom Hoffman said...

I just sent a chainsaw & accessories toward the school. I hope it gets to folks who can use it.

Nobody Special said...

I don't know how to describe the shame I feel, or even guilt as I read this blog. Guilt by association, because I am an American, and my Government has no clue how to deal with such basic needs of the people it is trying to protect.

If anyone is reading this, I had an idea how to help the people ravaged by this tragedy.

It's not totaly impossible, but would require a lot of volunteers to be advocates for the people who have no home, phone, comuter/internet access.

What I propose is not donating money to the Red Cross, but to the victims directly.


Here is how.

I want to start a web site. One where each victim of this storm can be registered with an acount, online, to any bank willing to participate.

What it would do is people fill out a basic form, the form is entered by the advocate or the people with access to the net can fill out an online version to register with the site.

Each person would then be set up with a Bank Account, that only they and they alone could access. This account would be somthing that they could then access from any local bank or online portal where they could either cash out money or make purchases with online cash, say though pay pal or similar service.

The money would come from donations, with a $5,000.00 cap on each account. What would happen is each person on who donates to the site would put money into a "pot". The money would then be equally divided among EVERY person registered on the site as a victim.

Once they reach $5,000.00, they do not get any more money, so this way it goes towards the other victims, sharing in the "pot".

THey could make withdrawls from any western union or bank doing wire or ACH transfers, and even be issued bank debit cards so they can access cash at ATM machines.

Once the account reaches $100.00 they can start earning again, but only after 30 days from the tim they reached their $5,000.00 cap. This way they can't spend money and keep raping the system. -but- they could use the money right away, but a counter would keep track of the total cash earned and spent until the combined reached $5,000.00. This way it keeps it honest and they can't rape the system in this manner either.

The site would remaain active and accounts would be given "1 year" of donatable service so the people could get back on their feet. At $5,000.00 per every thirty days, for 1 year, that would amount to about $60,000.00 in salary if they were working. Enough for a small family to live one.

Each household would be given ONE account per family, so even if their were two parents working, they get the same amount as a single parent family. (There has to be some fairness and method of keeping the money situation under control)

At the end of the year (not from the time the site starts, but from the account users 365 access) the accounts would be rolle dinto other users accounts who havent been in use for their one year access.

After all users have participated in this releif find, the donations would be cut off and the account of the "pot" would be put into a trust for future victims of National Disasters. The site could even donate portions of the remaining unused "pot" to local towns ravaged by the storm to help rebuild schools, churches and bussinesses, but only if the money is still needed at that time and only in areas that did not get enough from the government to get back up to speed.

Anyone willing to see this idea through, feel free to share it with others and maybe someone with the legal knowledge and know how could start this site and make it a reality.

It would be a 100% Non-Profit organization that would only help those directly related to the disaster, needing Lawyers, Banks and Honest Hard Working volunteers and inverstors to set the site up and maintain the service to the public.

"For the people, by the people, of the people..."

Mr. Fletcher said...

Hi, i've been reading your blog for some days and i'm totally blown off by the images you posted.

I've been trying to find an intelligent way to help your people there (sending money to the hulking red cross doesn't seem an effective way to help right now) and the possibility to have things sent directly to your community seems more useful. I'll try to find something useful to do in the next few days...

there's one thing I wish to suggest tho, even if it may seem the discovery of hot water:
ask what you need to people that sell it, possibly from big business.

it may sound stupid, but you'll probably be surprised by how many positive answers you'll recieve.

I mean, a pack of 100 pair of socks would mean anything in the balance of a big outdoor store, but would probably mean a lot to you.

If you have the chance, write to or call big internet sites, state your position and ask if they're willing to send something. Some will say no, but rest assured that you'll find someone who will help.

I know it may sound a lot like begging, but I really don't think there's anything shameful with it, considering the situation.

I would try to help in this way, but being from Italy it could be quite complicated to coordinate things from here...


Anonymous said...

Assuming some kind of conspiracy theory on the part of the government assumes enough organization to pull it off, as well as enough consensus to have the motive. Speaking as someone who has experience in these matters, no conspiracy exists, but alot of bureaucratic inefficiency does.
Remember, folks, America is not a nation of communists. We are a nation by the people, for the people NOT by the government, for the government. It is in each of us that we have the power to make change, and Clayton, your site with its personal poignant photos makes that case beautifully. We have a government that we pay our taxes to, and who was not prepared to handle this sort of emergency. None of us were, regardless of political affiliation.

Blame the local governments for not preparing or calling in the feds early enough. Blame the Red Cross for being a quasi-political, quasi-governmental bureaucracy itself. Blame the Bush administration. Blame Governor Blanco. Blame God, blame Sin, blame whomever you wish. But things will be accomplished in the same way things have always been accomplished in the history of our country - by ourselves, by our neighbors, by the People. It's what makes this country so unique, so wonderful, so great.

God bless you, Clayton, and your special gift. You must have extra cones and rods in your eyes; you see the world in ways I never dreamed possible with your photos. And stay away from that mold! That's nasty beyond belief!

Anonymous said...

Just to let you know, I've mobilized my tiny resources and am working to get people to send help directly to you. I also emailed a couple of people at CNN. Sometimes people and agencies respond if they see the media making a fuss. I work at a major US hospital and tried to go through proper channels to get medical help to you, but unfortunately we take directions from the NIH. As an organization nothing may be done, but I'll try to get individual volunteers for you.
If possible, post contact names and numbers for someone down there that I can forward to the right people.
My sister, who is disabled, is working all of the angles she can think of, including her local church and UMCOR (United Methodist Blah Blah). We're both passing your list on to everyone you can think of and I'm going to post it around the hospital. Hang in there - please don't give up hope. We're all in this together.

Anonymous said...


I believe that you are saving lives and changing lives with your work. Thank you, thank you. I've sent a link to your site to everyone I know. I wish you and all your family and community the very best. You are all in my prayers.

writingal said...

I just ordered the following items from You should get them next week.

1 Tylenol Extra Strength Caplets, Pain Reliever & Fever Reducer - 50 ea
5 Banana Boat Sport Sunscreen Lip Balm, SPF 30 - .15 oz
5 Schick Slim Twin Disposable Razors - 10 ea
5 Suave Shampoo for All Hair Types, Strawberry - 22.5 fl oz
5 Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent V Spray, Unscented - 23.8% DEET - 6 oz
1 Motrin IB Ibuprofen Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer, 200 mg, Gelcaps - 100 ea
1 Tylenol Regular Strength Pain Reliever - Fever Reducer, Tablets - 100 ea
5 Jergens Extra Moisturizing Hand Wash Refill, Cherry Almond Scent - 16 fl oz
5 Gillette Foamy Shaving Cream, Regular - 11 oz
5 Arrid XX Solid Antiperspirant & Deodorant, Unscented - 2.7 oz

3 Glad Large Trash, Quick-Tie, 30 Gallon - 21 ea
1 Centrum Silver Multivitamin and Mineral for Adults 50+, Tablets -

Anonymous said...

On the way:

- 17 pairs of PVC boots in assorted male sizes (including small ones that should fit many women)from Gempler's
- 2 four-person tents from K-mart
- 5 gas cans from K-mart
- 5 wheeled coolers from K-mart

I hope those help. Best wishes to everyone as they rebuild their lives.

Anonymous said...

Box on the way from Am linking to you on my LiveJournal.
- morrigandaughtr
Houston, TX

Anonymous said...

I'm omitting phone numbers here, but wanted to let you know what I've found out so far. I am going to continue working the numbers I've gotten thus far to find out what you need. I don't want to duplicate, but I don't want to leave you short either. You've been screwed for too long now....


- Kathryn Miller has been intricately involved in highlighting the needs of Pearlington. She's a local attorney. I wrote about her in one of my stories.

She can tell you exactly what the people need now.

- She has been working with former Congressman-turned-political talk show host, Joe Scarborough who is from Pensacola, and his wife, in getting aid to Pearlington.

They are taking donations through Christian Ministires. The ministry is buying things for Katrina victims all over Mississippi.

- Also, Ted Foret III, a local builder and businessman, is actually helping to rebuild the infrastructure of the town starting with replacing the sheriff's and fire department with temporary buildings until new ones can be built. He's going there Saturday to set up a hot meal kitchen for the people.

A story about his efforts will be in this Sunday's life section that you can access at

Here's the other contact infomation:

Anyone who wants to contribute to rebuilding Pearlington can contact Foret’s Hurricane Help line at 850-231-0077.

Kathryn Miller of Pace is still accepting donations that she is using the buy supplies and goods for the town. Kathryn Miller

5533 Timber Creek Drive

Pace, Fla. 32571

Christian Ministries of Pensacola is also Monetary donations can be sent to Christian Ministries, P.O. Box 911, Pensacola, FL 32591.

Drop-off cleaning supplies, shovels, rakes, rubber boots, work boots, work gloves, rubber gloves, baby diapers, formula, feminine hygiene products, sunscreen, chap stick, topical antiseptics and mosquito spray from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at Christ Episcopal Church on the corner of Palafox and Wright streets.

Clothing is no longer needed, except for new, packaged Onesies for babies.

A volunteer workday is being organized to help out in a shelter or serve food.

To volunteer and for details call Desiree Hunter at 384-8139 or 529-1120.

Anonymous said...

I'm a poor law student, so I couldn't donate as much as I'd like to. But I did go buy a whole bunch of stuff from the dollar store today and FedExed it down to Pearlington. Various items from Siege's list, plus "feminine hygene products" and polident and some non-meltable candy.

I feel better, for some reason, about donating stuff directly to a small town than just giving $100 to the Red Cross. Maybe we'll so overwhelm Pearlington with our donations that they start sending stuff to the next town over. :)

-Elizabeth in Memphis

writingal said...

We can hope, Elizabeth. We can hope.

Anonymous said...

Putting together a bunch of toiletry items and will drive them up to Pearlington on Wednesday or Thursday of this week (Oct 5th or 6th).

A friend in Slidell

clayton cubitt said...

Can I say how much you all rock? Seriously, I feel like I'm the Grinch, and you're Cindy Lou Who, and you're making my heart grow three sizes.

Anonymous said...

box of tolietries on the way from massachusetts. only wish we could send more.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any updated list of items that are needed?

As well, is this address still valid for sending items?

Anonymous said...

I shipped a box via Fed Ex Ground today. Bought 40 items for $40 at the Dollar Store. I informed the manager of who the items were for and asked if she could give me a discount or would like to contribute. She was able to not charge me tax.

Earlier this month I was buying baby items in a Walgreens to donate to a drive by a radio station in their parking lot. I asked the manager if I could get a discount and she gave me 15% off. So never hurts to ask.

Everyone wants to help!

Pitchin' in from Texas!

clayton cubitt said...

Thank you to eveyone who's sending things down. Sadly, the list of needed things is still just as long, so if you still want to send anything down that address is good.

Anonymous said...

Clayton, thanks for your blog and it's good to hear that the list is all still needed. A whole bunch of us sent down a box from that should be delivered today, and we got enough pledges extra that we will probably be able to do a tent or a chainsaw as well. Just a whole bunch of $10 contributions from folks in Brooklyn who send their love,


Anonymous said...

I just found this as a link from a friend. First, I am glad to hear that you and your family have survived Katrina. Thank you so much for posting this and letting people know the truth of what is going on down there.

I can't make any kind of promise on this, because I'm a college student paying my own way and I don't know if finances would allow it, but I'd like to try and get down there to help out, even if I can't stay long. I have a CNA (nurse assistant) license from the state of MA. I know you mentioned in a post that there is a school being used for a shelter area, and that medical help is needed. If they still need people, and can take a nurse assistant, please email me at and I will do my best to work something out.

Good luck to you, your family, and everyone else affected by Katrina. We are all thinking of you and hoping that everything works out!