1st Annual Pearlington Volunteer Reunion
It was like riding a wild stallion.
We hung on for dear life, bobbing and weaving, punch-drunk fighters resting on the ropes when the constant assault allowed. We didn’t know we were traumatized, as the trauma unfolded around us and tears fell from our eyes. Paper towels, water bottles and hand sanitizer were our only defenses, and the sweat poured freely as we labored in the stultifying heat.
We were crazy to be there and crazier still for staying. There was not enough of anything and too much pain to go around. We slept on the ground or in the ovens of our vehicles, waiting for the dawn and enough light to start again. We never knew a last name; only first names and nicknames and swear words and oaths and promises and stories that broke our hearts, that opened our eyes, that changed our lives. We held each other in the embrace only soldiers and survivors know, with little time for artifice, or pretension or even proper manners.
We juggled and jumped, jiggled and jived, ran and panted in the awesome heat to do our tasks and to bring relief as fast as we could. We kidded and laughed; that exhausted kind that sounds maniacal and hyper to the uninitiated ear. We made snap judgements, sometimes wrong, but seldom of the people we came to help and never of each other. We shared a common peril and broke our own hearts on purpose.
It was early September, 2005 in Pearlington, Mississippi and we were dancing with Katrina.
It is with a deep sense of humility that I announce my intention to host the First Annual Pearlington Volunteer Reunion, to be held on Saturday, August 26, 2006.
ALL volunteers who have worked in Pearlington since the Storm are invited to return and to help us to commemorate the anniversary of an event unparalleled in our lifetimes. We will celebrate and reminisce, remembering those who were lost in the storm and those who have perished since. We will eat and sing, dance and renew - our friendships and our determination to stay the course and finish the task.
Ms. Susie Sharp has generously offered her acres on Hwy. 90 for our use and you are invited to come a few days before and stay a few days after - if you can - and to add your loving labor to a still-uncompleted job. We will make a Mississippi crab and shrimp boil of biblical proportions and recall the days we flocked from all over the continent to answer the call of our conscience and to offer a helping hand up to the people of Pearlington we have come to love.
Watch this blog for details in the coming days. Book your time now and get here however you can. Bring your open hearts and kind intentions and let us mark this anniversary in a calm and loving way.
Please allow a few days for me to post more details and then I will ask for your reservations and invite your questions and offers to help. Please be prepared to make a modest donation to the food and festivities. Those who can offer transportation from the Biloxi and New Orleans Airports may contact me immediately. Arrangements will be made to provide sleeping spaces on the field and in the Volunteer Shelter and Laurie Spaschak will coordinate this part. Camping may also be done on Susie’s property and we volunteers will bear all costs so that Susie, nor any Pearlington resident, is out of pocket in the least. There will be, of course, Karaoke and I reserve the right to make a brief opening speech and to sing a special song.
I extend a special invitation to all the September "Renegaides" far and wide to return at this time and to join me in anchoring the event for all who came after us.
My wife Marian will be joining me and sharing in the history and friendships I have made over the many months. I invite you all to share this event with your partners, but will ask that you carefully consider the appropriateness of bringing small children. It will be very hot, conditions will be camp-style and you need to be prepared to be fully self-sufficient.
This Reunion is a private event and will be secure and carefully controlled.
Let’s show Pearlington that we’re still here, that we still care and that their recovery and rebuilding is our utmost priority.
"Canada Jon" White