The scars and damage are still evident today: On the people who returned to their towns to rebuild and for the people who can never return. Many animals and people lost their lives. Thousands upon thousands of emergency responders got sick while rescuing people and animals. A deployment of days easily turned into weeks and months for many.
I was one of them. One of an army of disaster animal responders climbing through mountains of debris, high water, into attics and over cars, boats and floating refrigerators to rescue the traumatized animals holding onto life by a thread. Many times we found their owners, dead, in attics or other bodies under the houses as we searched for any life in the Lower 9th Ward, Biloxie or Gulfport.
Just as the Katrina waters were receding, Hurricanes Rita and Wilma arrived and the water level went up again and again causing more havoc and many more injuries and drownings. Now the BP oil spill is again affecting the same areas.
The physical and emotional scars remain on the land, the people, the animals and the responders.
Today while you go amongst your work, please light a candle for the uncountable animals and people who perished and the others who remain homeless, traumatized and lost.
Here are a few of my photos from those 6 months of deployments.
Loading a plane with 90 rescued dogs from the flood waters of New Orleans in 120 degree heat at the Baton Rouge airport. Destination: California
Plane #4 donated, courtesy of Madeline and T.Boone Pickens ( Thank you, thank you, thank you )
Rescuers, Sheltering, Volunteers and Transport courtesy of St Francis Sanctuary, Tylertown, MS and Best Friends,Utah. ( Thank you, thank you, thank you! )
This Rescued skinny Rottweiler had 9 puppies in the back of my van while being transported. All survived. All were taken to a foster home in Florida ( where they rode out Hurricane Rita! ). All, including the mom, found new homes.
Animal Rescuers ( from all over the USA and Canada ) getting their morning briefing and assignments in New Orleans at the ARNO staging area.
That morning we located several dogs under this house and called for some assistance.
Feeding stations to keep the thousands of homeless cats and dogs alive until rescuers could set up more emergency shelters, more transports to out of state shelters and get more trained animal volunteers to capture and transport them out of the danger zones.
Dogs wandering around what use to be a very busy mobile home park. 40 of the homes floated away.
Disaster graffiti. We eventually captured the dog that was under this house.
Water Lines on houses were very clear. Other houses in this neighborhood had all their roofs UNDER the water. Many dead animals and people were found in attics.
One of those houses that was totally submerged in the flood waters. Dead dogs and dead deer on roof.
My van, equipment, hot gatoraid, blankets, first aid kit, CLEAN water, traps, crates, poles, nets, grain, dog and cat food.
This was my home for deployments. I slept here, wrote my reports here, ate here (when there was food) and cried here.
The water was so high in this area that there were Winnebago's on roofs.
One morning 20 fresh new volunteers with 20 clean vehicles showed up at the staging area to help us exhausted volunteers.
How we loved VANS. Pull those extra seats out, put all the gear in and GO!
At our early morning briefings teams of volunteers were assigned initially to set up feeding stations around the city to feed the thousands of hungry pets that had escaped the flood waters and try to capture the friendly dogs first.
I am a certified Animal Control Officer and Humane Trapper so I was assigned to capture the hard to catch dogs that had been sighted by other volunteers. This particular day I was teamed up with Shirley in area "30."
However, I was quickly reassigned to the Lower 9th Ward since there were so many loose dogs down there that were interfering with the Military cadaver dogs that were doing body recovery.
We were the only non-military personnel allowed in the Lower 9th for a month.
We lived on 2-3 hours of sleep, hot gatoraid and granola bars for weeks.
Resetting a trap under an overturned trailer in the Lower 9th Ward
This was our view from the overturned trailer. We could clearly see the giant barge that had broken through the levee and smashed most of the houses in the Lower 9th Ward. We set many traps in the shade of the bridge..until we saw the giant snakes....
The military guard posted across the street from our U Haul traps.
That particular morning a Lower 9th resident returned to the area and took photos of his collapsed home.
He was not allowed to go back to his neighbor hood as bodies were still being recovered and the toxicness of the dirt and buildings was dangerous.
( but they let us animal rescuers in! )
It was heartbreaking listening to him tell us how his family was all split up, some still missing, and had been evacuated to 5 other states during the flooding.
Wendy and I were ordered to go "get vaccinated" since we were working in a highly toxic area.