I just returned from two days in Miami, OK, where I went with my daughters to help with flood relief.
We got there at noon Friday just in time to eat lunch and get assigned to a crew with the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief mud-out crew. I was in for the hardest 1 1/2 days of work in my life.
The first assignment was to tear out plaster walls. For this, my daughters and I were handed crowbars and were dressed out in rubber boots, gloves, dust masks, hardhats and goggles. It was probably over 100 degrees in the house we worked in and it felt unbearable with all that gear on. We had to take frequent breaks for water and fresh air.
Before we started, we signed a waiver stating we had our own insurance. I didn’t really think much of that until I saw a veteran crew member with a bandaged nose from falling plaster. Another man cut his finger on a nail while we worked. That made me, a total amateur, very nervous, but other than some very sore muscles and a few bruises, my daughters and I came out unscathed.
I wish I could say the same for the homeowners whose houses we helped demolish. The first home had plaster walls that had to be completely ripped out, even the ceiling tiles had to go. I couldn’t believe the homeowner was actually thanking us profusely for our help as he stood outside his gutted home. One of the workers explained, however, that we’d just saved him thousands of dollars and dozens of hours of sweat labor.
One of the workers asked the homeowner if he was going to heaven and he accepted Jesus as his savior right there on the street while the crew prayed and cried. The mansion in heaven surely will make up for this.
At the second home, we only had to tear out four feet of sheetrock and then powerwash and bleach the exposed walls. The water had even left its mark on the exterior brick.
At the third home, we tore out hardwood floors — the hardest job I’ve ever done and the most sweat I’ve ever produced. The sub-floor would have to be ripped out later as it was completely rotted through in spots. Again, I felt horrible leaving the family without even a safe floor to stand on. And, again, they were thanking us for our work saying they had been at it themselves for several weeks with little progress until we showed up. The woman who lived there said they had insurance but had not seen a dime of it yet.
As we finished work Saturday, it was pouring rain again.
I left feeling good for having helped and awful for having made so little impact. I helped at three homes, but there are hundreds more damaged. Some of the people with the Baptist organization had already been in Miami for three weeks. Some had driven from as far away as North Carolina. Some were staying through this week and maybe into the next. The Red Cross was on hand and the First Christian Church was housing everyone.
They have a good system worked out. They have crews who cook and crews who run a shower trailer, where fresh towels and toiletries are provided and they’ll even do your laundry.
This is a staggering effort, and I am grateful to have gotten a firsthand look.