the days are not filled with much noise. mostly quiet desperation. eyes not really focusing on anything until i tell them there is no money coming. fema lied. and then they see me clearly for a moment before stoicism or weeping takes over.

for most it is a dazed and quiet walking away.

for others – a minority given the magnitude of the grief and destruction – for others there is the almost silent breaking down. i haven’t heard wailing. and it would be easy to miss the tears of those that finally succumb to the realization that no one is coming to rescue them.

one woman at my desk covered her face with one hand. i couldn’t hear her breathing. i waited. she sat, immobile and i placed my hand on her forearm across a stretch of wood that separated us. it was all i could do. she put her head down on her arm and cried. still silent. but her back constricted and she tried desperately to compose herself.

two kids. a husband. a mother. two homes destroyed.

only a wrong code and bad timing between her family and the money that could have made all the difference.

then there was the woman with an accent who wept when i smiled and asked her to move one chair over –usually a happy  sign that the line was moving along.

She bent her head and wept quietly. When I knelt closer to ask her what was wrong she blurted out that her husband was sick and needed care and she was scared.

What could I tell her?

And the stories continue. With tears, without. With indifference and resignation, with fear and silent indignation.

It is getting harder and harder to do the government’s work. Harder to smile at people all the while knowing they will not be getting the money they were promised. The help they desperately need. The help now being flaunted in front of them as Rita victims begin to file and receive their money.

Even so I’m unsure. How long will Rita folks get their money? Fema promises obviously mean nothing. And although I try to make a difference…all of us here are trying to help in any way we can…it is increasingly difficult to sit this close and know that I am unable to truly help.


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