May 2006 Volume 45, Issue 4
the issue at hand
Spring Break in New Orleans
My dad has been the focus of my editor’s column in the past. In the May 2004 issue, I wrote about the problems he was facing as he looked for a new job at the age of 57. My dad, Sam Snyder, who is a physics professor at Wayne State College in Wayne, Neb., gets the spotlight again because of his recent help in rebuilding the New Orleans area.
While he could have been grading papers or actually resting (which would have shocked all of our family), he spent spring break, March 6-10, with six other members of his church’s team, on the East side of New Orleans tearing two houses down to their studs.
A House is a Home
My dad described the first house that his team worked on as a 2500-square-foot, one-story, four-bedroom, upper-middle-class house. The flood mark on the house was six feet high on the wall.
The homeowners were a retired couple, and after Hurricane Katrina, the couple moved to a condo in St. Charles, La., and were flooded out by Hurricane Rita. The couple, who was staying with their son in the Lafayette area, came and helped on the first day the team was there.
My dad said that he and his team took everything out of the house. He described removing what appeared to be good furniture, but when they picked it up, the side would fall out of it or the wood on drawers would come off.
“Furniture was all strewn about. Things were still damp, and there was still mud on the floor,” my dad said.
A Dirty, Smelly but Rewarding Job
After removing everything, the team proceeded to gut the house, taking sheet rock off, pulling carpet up, taking plumbing fixtures out, etc.—a musty, musty job.
“The smell wasn’t as bad as I thought. In the refrigerator in the garage, the freezer had come open, and it smelled horrible: we duck-taped the refrigerator [in the house] shut, so when moving it, it wouldn’t come open on accident. That smell would have knocked you over,” he said.
The second house the team worked on was farther East, within a mile of the eastern-most part of New Orleans.
This house was a little more modest with three bedrooms. The owners had moved most of the furniture out and had some things sorted. The husband and wife worked for the city; the wife had lost her job after the hurricane, and both had lost their health insurance. She had a heart attack a week after the hurricane. My dad said this couple was planning to move back in, and they seemed to have less water in the house—two or three feet.
“We took the house down to the studs, but didn’t get the ceilings out,” he said. “We only spent 1 ½ days on the second house, but by then we knew what we were doing.”
My dad described his nervousness about going down to New Orleans for spring break. “You are not quite sure what you are going to see. We had masks/filters and Tyvek coveralls, and we didn’t know whether we would be able to get the job done or be too hot or too uncomfortable in our clothing. You wondered how the people would be. How would it go when you met the owners?”
My dad said that, though unusual for the teams to meet the homeowners, it was the best part of his week.
“We were as interested in helping them save things as tearing the inside of their house out,” he said.
“I think the group thought that we had done some good. We did what we went down there to do. I thought it was the best way to spend my break. I didn’t think about the things I had to do at home—grading, etc. It’s one thing to send money, but when they [residents] see people actually taking their time out and doing that stuff, it makes a difference to them. It’s dirty work. People can appreciate that. It’s much more personal,” he said.
I know many of you in the building products industry have donated money, products and even time to help with the hurricane-relief and restoration effort. Please let SHELTER know if your company is involved in rebuilding the Gulf Coast. I know that I’m proud of all those including my dad who are helping to rebuild the Gulf Coast. Their stories can motivate all of us to do what we can to help.
Samantha Carpenter, editor
© Copyright 2006 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.