Pastor sees dismal conditions for hurricane evacuees in Gulf
On Saturday, Sept. 12, Pete Wood decided that something had to be done to help families separated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The next day he preached a Sunday sermon at Faith Baptist Church, loaded his Dodge Durango with a few necessities and a thick bundle of cash from his friends and congregation and headed to Texas.More than 5,500 miles later, he was in Houston.”I didn’t go there because I am a pastor,” he said this week. “I went there because I am a human being. I would have stayed a year if I could. If you were in their shoes, you would want your family more than anything, too.”Wood had realized the immense need for help when he logged on to craigslist.com and began to read the bulletin boards. Hundreds of messages appeared from private citizens expressing their interests in reuniting families.Wood partnered with a loose-knit band of individuals he met through the online community.Once in Texas, the group worked to transport the displaced people to hotels and new homes, and to reunite separated loved ones using private vehicles, a donated van, and a bus that two college students had paid to charter.”You know the system has flaws, but when you actually see it, man it’s frustrating,” Wood said. “The conditions in those shelters are horrendous. I would rather spend the night in a prison rather than one of these places. These people are waiting on red tape to get out of these shelters, and they obviously can’t go home. We were just getting out anyone that we could.”For nearly a week, from dawn into the darkest hours of the night, Wood loaded his Durango with strangers and delivered them to frightened parents, worried spouses, and new apartments and homes. One family reunion was that of a 20-year-old single father and his 18-month-old son, Wood said. Stephen, the father, had not evacuated with his son, whom he placed on a bus set for an unknown destination. Instead, he stayed behind to physically carry elderly from their homes, saving many of them from death.”I started keeping track of names, but it got to be too fast too furious, but I can remember their faces and their tears,” Wood said. “I drove 5,525 miles and spent a total of $2,992.67, and spent a week away from my own family, but the difference it made was priceless. I have never spent a week of my life in a way that was more meaningful, helpful and even personally satisfying, than the week in Texas and Louisiana.”
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