Name: Matt Grise
Hometown: Hebron, MD
Birthday: May 9, 1986
Major: International and Religious Studies
Favorite Memory: Hanging out with the class
Astrological Sign: Taurus
For me this trip was absolutely wonderful. We were not only able to help refresh the homes of the people we helped, but on several occasions worked and became close with the resident.
Honestly, I just cannot get the events of the last two weeks out of my head. When we first got there after the 17 hour bus ride, I dont think any of us knew what to think. Even before we actually arrived in New Orleans, you instantly knew we were close. Most of the trees were down, damage was rampant on the semi-deserted streatch of highway, and all you could smell going over Lake Pontchartrain was the scent of stale, stagnant water.
After getting settled in a bit, we went ti survey the area and see what kind of stuff we would be dealing with over the next couple of weeks. The destruction was incredible. Going over the bridge to New Orleans East all you could see were blue tarps on roofs and as you rode down the street there was house after house with giant piles of house contents on the side of the road. Waterlines varied but were generally over ones head. There was even a park we rode past that was being used to store tons and tons of wood taken out by the storm.
One of the images I think I will always carry with me is that of going to the worksite and surveying the work to be done. Waterlines up to the ceiling with mold completely covering most of the drywall and the insulation still sopping wet, almost all of the residents belongings out of place and in the wrong room, refridgerators on their side in the kitchen, and serving wear still full of water. Soon most of this would be on a pile by the road. Sometimes we were able to save things like photo albums and wedding dresses but other times we were not quite so lucky.
Obviously, this could all be a little sad, but by the end when all of the moldy drywall, soaked insulation, and ruined appliances were removed and there was nothing left but the frame of the hous, you could feel a sence of hope that the house could really be saved and made better than ever. Just listening to the residents plan how they were going to rebuild and put one wall here and take out another wall there because it is something that they always wanted to do made you feel like things were really going to be rebuilt and go back to normal.
Before going down, I don't think any of us expected to become as close to the residents as we did. However, in working with the families and hearing their stories, I think all of us came to love the people whose houses we were working on. We both impacted and were impacted by the lives of 15 families, but there is still much work to be done in New Orleans. I cannot imagine any better way I couls have spent J-Term.