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Bush cabinet official meets with evacuees

 


Bush cabinet official meets with evacuees

Sept. 19, 2005    

By Kathy L. Gilbert*

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (UMNS)—Elizabeth Kelly had no idea where she was going when she boarded a plane and left her flood-soaked home in New Orleans.

She was 33,000 feet in the air before the pilot announced they were heading for Tennessee, Kelly said. Now home for Kelly and 179 other transplanted New Orleans residents is a warehouse-turned-Red Cross shelter in Franklin.

On Sept. 16 — the day President George W. Bush proclaimed as a national day of prayer for survivors of Hurricane Katrina — Norman Y. Mineta, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, visited the shelter and expressed support to the survivors and appreciation to the volunteers.

Mineta is a United Methodist layman who has served in Congress and was secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Upon meeting Kelly, Mineta shook her hand. “Bless your heart for all you have gone through,” he told her. “Thanks for your patience.”

“These people in Tennessee have taken good care of me,” she said. Kelly escaped from her uptown New Orleans home with her three sisters and a cousin. She is anxious to get back home and is worried about the pets she had to leave behind.

Earl Heider is also anxious to return home. He moved to New Orleans in 1933 and can’t wait to get back. “I am going to spend the rest of my life there,” he said. “They got another storm, I’m still going to spend the rest of my life there.”

Heider spent several days in a tent on a highway overpass before he was rescued.

“We had no water, no electricity, no telephone, and you know where all the waste went from humans and animals? Right into that water. That went on for seven or eight days.”

The trip to Tennessee was the first time the 78-year-old had ever been on “a big jet.”

“That thing (the jet) just took off and come over here so easy with all those people and all the luggage.”

Mineta listened to stories like Heider’s and shared lunch with the evacuees before addressing reporters.

“The president has always indicated all of us owe a great deal to each other,” Mineta said. “We should be able to help people through prayer.” Bush, like Mineta, is a United Methodist.

“Something from my basic faith says you have to respond to people,” said Mineta, a member of Wesley United Methodist Church in San Jose, Calif. “It is based on having been a United Methodist since I was a kid going to Sunday school right up to chairing the pastoral relations committee.”

Mineta said his home church took up an offering Sept. 11 for hurricane relief.

The Department of Transportation is working hard to get “all modes of transportation back up and running in Louisiana and Mississippi,” he said.

That rebuilding will probably cost more than $3 billion, but repairs also are needed in Florida and Alabama, he said.

“The question now is how do you deal with a swath 80 to 100 miles wide of total destruction in Mississippi,” he said. “Louisiana wasn’t blown away, but there is a lot of water damage. A lot of cultural history has been destroyed.”

As he walked through the shelter he commented, “It is the beauty of the American people; they respond, and we will rebuild.”

Donations to support the United Methodist response to Hurricane Katrina can be made online at www.methodistrelief.org and by phone at (800) 554-8583. Checks can be written to UMCOR, designated for “Hurricanes 2005 Global,” Advance No. 982523, and left in church offering plates or mailed directly to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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