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December 2005
NEWS RELEASES | FALL SEMESTER PHOTOS | CALENDAR | PARADE SCHEDULE | ARCHIVE OF PASS IN REVIEW

Articles in this edition
Meet the company commanders
Helping hurricane victims
General's Journal
New president arrives on January 3
When Pomp and Circumstance Fade
A company built on principles

Giving Katrina victims a reason to give thanks



Editor's note A group of cadets, alumni and friends led by School of Business Administration Adjunct Professor Karen Shuler spent Thanksgiving week in the vicinity of Waveland, Miss. helping victims of Katrina. Cost of the trip and supplies were largely underwritten by a $15,000 gift from Pratt and Whitney, a manufacturer of turbine engines in Connecticut.

Shuler described the trip as an 8-day, grueling effort in which the cadets and alumni accomplished an astounding amount of work but left disheartened by the amount of work and help needed in the area.

The volunteers spent their time shoveling debris and tearing out walls in areas where many people were still living in tents and braving nighttime temperatures in the 30s.

Shuler, who said the group will return because of the staggering amount of work still to be done, shared the following observations in an email to Citadel faculty and staff:

Giving Katrina victims a reason to give thanks

By Karen Shuler

Our experience there was amazing, blessed, phenomenal... the reports of damage are underestimates, if anything. We drove parallel to the coast through 80-plus miles of flooded vehicles, toppled trailers and shredded buildings. Then we turned into Waveland/Bay St Louis and headed toward the beach road. [We drove] through an area with about a half mile of mud-soaked houses where people were slowly picking away at the debris. Then we found another half-mile or so of pancaked houses: the surge came in, filled the houses, then went out again so that the weight of water left inside blew out the walls and caused the roofs to just fall on top of the debris pile. We saw block after block of flattened homes. We then crossed a railroad on top of a 10 foot embankment that runs parallel to the beach about half a mile inland. As we topped the embankment and looked down, all we could see for miles was cleared foundations and cloth debris hanging from large oak trees. Officials estimate that the surge was 30' high in that area and the wall of water literally pushed most of the debris over that embankment. A lot of people died there.

It's easy to believe that wood frame houses could not stand up to that pressure. What shocked me was a post-and-beam house built with massive steel I-beams as posts. The first floor was nowhere to be seen and the second floor was perched in thin air on top of I-beams that had been twisted by the surge. But the sight that rattled my engineer son - who does structural design - was the reinforced poured concrete house that had only a small corner room left... with 8-foot-long rebar stripped clean, trailing from the edges like fringe. After examining the damage, he said that if that house did not survive the storm, it was doubtful that anything could have. Five miles inland, the water level was still high enough to cover a house on stilts!

We mucked out debris 3-5' high in five houses (glued together with pluff mud), including nasty spoiled food and water-filled major appliances and furniture. We then tore out the sheetrock and kitchen cabinets - everything down to the studs and concrete slabs, working by flashlight one night even though we had to be extra careful.

We were driven because, as the days went on and news spread about The Citadel group (that we were honest and wouldn't steal from them and that we would help them salvage possessions), people kept coming to us asking for help and our list grew longer and longer. Two FEMA inspectors even drove out to one worksite to ask us to help a Korean War vet and his wife who was undergoing chemotherapy. Their house had not been touched since the storm. We pushed even harder and were able to fit them in but had to leave with more than a dozen houses that we could not get to.

Thank you to all here who helped launch this effort, who prayed for our safety (it worked!), who are supporting other relief groups in the Charleston area (we want to make contact with them to establish a network), who have caring hearts and are willing to share the love and practical expertise we have in this Citadel family.

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