Journey long for evacuees

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 26, 2005

NATCHEZ &045;&045; For the Holland family, new evacuees from Lake Charles, La., the waiting is excruciating, and it only began on Thursday.

&uot;We got here late last night,&uot; Jack Holland, a heavy equipment operator said.

The seven in his party include his parents and his fianc/e and her mother. They are staying at the Red Cross shelter at Parkway Baptist Church, where numbers had started to drop from Katrina. Parkway is now back up to capacity.

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His father, Morris, the victim of two strokes, is edgy and did not want to leave home, Holland said.

His mother, Shirley, agreed. &uot;He’s nervous. He can’t understand why we had to leave home.&uot;

The family slept on the parking lot on thick blankets, wanting to stay outside with their pets &045;&045; three dogs and two birds.

&uot;We’re still outside in our trucks,&uot; Jack said. &uot;We want to stay with our animals.&uot;

Shirley Holland said the church shelter has been wonderful. &uot;They’ve done everything for us,&uot; she said. &uot;But this is the first time we’ve been this far from home.&uot;

The Hollands simply want to get closer to home. They have had little encouragement that shelters may be available nearer Lake Charles, however. They discussed going north, maybe as far as Tennessee.

&uot;Our main thing is getting the older people to safety,&uot; Jack Holland said.

The church complex teemed not only with evacuees but also with volunteers. FEMA inspectors had come to look over the shelter.

Young children looked for diversions, asking volunteers at the front desk for more coloring books.

What could have been chaos was instead order, as church volunteers listened patiently to questions and gently gave their best earnest advice.

Parkway volunteer Lyn Norris said the experience has been positive for her church.

&uot;It’s been a very humbling experience, a very rewarding experience,&uot; she said. &uot;They have been the most gracious people. They can’t say thank you enough.&uot;