(Editor’s note: Brian Redmond of Redmond’s Nursery in Tomahawk made a return trip to the Ocean Springs, Miss., area to deliver Christmas trees this year, something he has done the past 26 years. Brian had transported donated supplies from Tomahawk shortly after Hurricane Katrina. This is one of the letters he was given thanking local folks for their concern and support. It is printed as part of a feature story in the Jan. 17 Tomahawk Leader.)
Dear Citizens of Tomahawk, Wisconsin:
Thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of the clothing, bedding and supplies y’all donated to us after Katrina. Words cannot express how much the need was and how truly thankful we are to y’all.
Before Katrina, I had everything a person could possibly need or want. A beautiful house filled with 30 years worth of memories and hard work. A good job. A great husband and two wonderful children. Then on Aug. 29 (I will never forget that date) my whole world, as I knew it, would come to an end.
Looking back, it is so hard for me to believe that it was actually me living that life. It seems so far away. So long ago. Even though it has only been a few months. Like my husband says, “It’s like a different lifetime or a different world.” It’s hard for me to even remember what it feels like to be normal.
We lost everything. The house, furniture, clothes, food, my job. We had nothing! Not even shelter. For the first time in my life, I was homeless, displaced, jobless, a refugee and hungry. We had nothing but the clothes on our backs and my husband’s truck. These were terms and words I never in a million years would of ever guessed I could be associated with. But, thank God, I had my husband, two children, two cats and two sugar glyders and my life. Eighteen people in my small neighborhood weren’t as fortunate and lost their lives. Six are still missing.
God has truly blessed me! Things were real difficult at first. There were days when we didn’t eat. Over a week before we could bathe. Water was real scarce so even a sponge bath was wasted water. And no toilet facilities, besides a bucket, bag and shovel. (I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.) After awhile the clothes we had on became stiff with dirt, sweat, grease and filth. Death and sewage was everywhere. Dead bodies and debris lay everywhere and the smell was horrible.
My friend, Carol, whose mother owns Frasier’s Nursery, told me of a truck that had come from Wisconsin with supplies and clothes. We were overjoyed. We arrived at the truck and were overwhelmed by y’all’s generosity. For the first time in awhile, we felt like everything was going to be OK. That very day, my husband’s work, Mississippi Power Co., brought in travel trailers and put them at the power plant for employees that were homeless. I went back that day to y’all’s truck and gathered up 35 of the handmade quilts that y’all had sent and distributed them, as well as other goods y’all had sent, to the other families at the make-shift trailer park at the power plant who had lost everything. Everyone was so overwhelmed by y’all’s generosity. The quilts especially are so nice to have. You would of thought I was handing out a million dollars when I gave everyone a quilt. It’s nice to have something as nice as a beautiful, handmade quilt, especially when you have lost everything. I find when I am feeling down, I’ll wrap myself in my quilt and it makes me feel better. Kind of like a big, secure hug. Now that it is getting cold, the quilts are very nice to have because the travel trailers are so drafty.
I just wanted y’all to know how truly thankful we are to y’all. And that everything y’all have given was needed and used by people who really were in need. Y’all have touched so many lives and truly made a difference to so many. Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts and may God bless you. Y’all will always be in our thoughts and prayers. We hope y’all have a very Merrill Christmas and a wonderful New Year!
Love, Belinda Slade