For the Good of the Gulf: UNC Law Winter/Spring Break Pro Bono Project

Monday, December 19, 2005

Tryin' to be the Shepherd: Part 1

I've always enjoyed writing about actual events in a kind of diary/travelogue format, so I'll give it a shot here too.

December 18th, 2005.

6 AM- Alarm. Need to finish packing. This is a recipe for disaster as it increases the possibility of forgetting something important by about 200%.
6:45- Groggy and cold, I step out of the house and look for Diane, Mandy, and Ed. I don't see them. Diane has to get out of the car and lead me to it.
7:10- Arrive at Thrifty. Ed and I are thrilled to discover the twin minivans we've reserved have satellite radio. We are less pleased to remember they are still minivans.
8:00- Arrive at law school in Town and Country. Distribute biscuits, load supplies into back.
8:45- Depart law school, bound for New Orleans. Liles and I in one Town and Country; Diane in her own car (we'll drop that car off in South Carolina), rest of crew in the remaining Town and Country. We're only 45 minutes behind. Perfect.
3 PM- We're getting close to Atlanta. Lunch included food at the slowest Wendy's in the southeast and Diane's pronouncement by fiat that we wouldn't stop to eat in the restaurant. In other news, I'm getting sick of driving, so Diane takes over shortly thereafter.
3:18- Ongoing discussion of Arnold Schwartzenaeger's most seminal performances evolves into debate between relative merits of "Commando" and "Kindgergarten Cop."
7:30, Central Time- While buying gas, purchase a sticker that lets everyone know that our Town and Country is "Bad to the Bone."
10:30- Arrive New Orleans.
FEMA trailors have become a veritable city unto themselves in Sam's Club and Wal-Mart parking lots. Part of the interstate runs along an elevated bridge, allowing us to see that neighborhoods alternate between being lit and being completely dark. Along the road we can see debris strewn about. Not normal debris like pieces of blown out tires or smashed glass, but actual household items. We assume this marks the trail refugees took out of the city on foot as they tried to walk to safety.
10:45- Arrive at Tim's house. We meet his gracious family, take some supplies over to Tim's brother's house where some of the group will stay, and go to bed.

December 19th

8:15-8:45- Travel to Pro Bono Project in Downtown New Orleans. We pass the Superdome, and someone mentions that a lot of people just want to blow it up because its structurally insecure and, perhaps more importantly, brings about such bad memories. We switch the radio from satellite to a local station and are reminded by a charity commercial that "For some, Hurricane Katrina will last all their lives." We also see a hospital, which makes me wonder if it was the one where, in one of the most inexplicable events of the entire tragedy, patients and doctors came under sniper fire as they attempted to flee.
8:45-8:55- Walk from parking lot to Pro Bono project. We pass by a great view of the badly-damaged Downtown Hyatt with a banner hanging off it; "Laissez les bon temps roulez." I hate people who try to show off wild places they've traveled so forgive me, but it reminds me of nothing more than a Holiday Inn in downtown Sarajevo that was bombed and used by journalists in the seige of that city. The streets are fairly quiet but it may be because of the relatively early hour, or this may not be a very busy part of downtown.
9:30- Begin orientation at the Pro Bono Project. After the session, we begin calling clients and attorneys who the Project had previously linked up to try to see if they've been able to remain in touch and what the dispositions of their cases are. However, today I've not been able to actually get in touch with a client. I have been able to talk to some attorneys. One contact was especially touching- I called a contact number and was automatically forwarded to an assitant's cell phone. The assistant was in her car driving and told me their office had been destroyed and they're working from home. I ask if I can call back later but she insists on pulling over and helping me right then. I'm struck by her dedication to an indigent in the middle of her own personal crisis.
1 PM- We seem to be getting close to the end of making contact on the succession cases and some of the folks beign to work on homeless files. Liles, looking at one homeless client's files, asks "They couldn't find him before the hurricane, how are they supposed to find him afterwards?" I think its a pretty good question. It looks like we'll be doing this for the rest of the work day today.

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