Friday, September 02, 2005

Friday evening at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center

i sit here at some public-acess computers (thanks to Dell!) at a FWISD athletic center in southeast Fort Worth (Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center) where an estimated 600 evacuees from NOLA (New Orleans, LA) are scheduled to arrive, and, i'd say, about 300-400 are already here. meals have been distributed, people are setting up tents, spreading sleeping bags on the main floor, and quietly regaining some equillibrium.

throngs of Fort Worthians, bless their souls, are dropping off bags and boxes of dry goods (toiletries to clothing to bottled water).

a woman, who i'm assuming is the volunteer coordinator, is shouting commands and suggestions to a flurry of newly-arrived folks who want to offer a hand. we show up to make a donation and then we don't want to leave; that's the spirit, eh? Black Baptist church communities, some in matching t-shirts, bustle about with a sense of reassuring familiarity and hearty laughs. i see "official volunteers" with badges hanging from their necks, representing the City of Fort Worth, the FW Independent School District, the Red Cross, and other agencies.

i see people walking around with heaping plates of hot food and drinks, perhaps the first hot complete meal they've had in days. a person overseeing the buffet line shouts out to other volunteers standing around, wanting to be of service: "extend a hand, start a conversation, welcome these people to Texas!"

everyone here wants to give just a little bit, well, actually, we want to give a lot...but we don't want to be pushy or invasive.

i decided one thing i could help do was hang out near the computers (all have high-speed internet connections) and offer assistance if folks need to search for information.

i created the FAVORITES lists on each computer here, adding websites which i think might be relevant to these evacuees:  housing, jobs, news...

whether young or old, everyone seems calm and surprisingly content. i notice the sharp smell of aftershave and other aromatic body products, as folks emerge from the showers, walking around in fresh clothes. they must feel so much better now.

i am enjoying the company of young 14-year old Kevin, who sits at the computer to my left. he is happily occupied with an anime tv series website, downloading dozens of images and printing them on the HP printer, and he is nonstop describing each series character and detailing the narrative of this mythological tale. he has the biggest smile, as he describes the one MRE (meals-ready-to-eat) he received just earlier today. i keep prodding him to eat something more substantial, a little fresher, on the tables just three yards behind us. i ask about his family, and he indicates that his mother and brother are elsewhere in the center; he seems not to be worried about them or anything else, as his gaze remains fixed on the Japanese drawings on the screen.

he is in his own reverie of survival, even as slices of dinner pizza cool at his side....

[The Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center is located at 5101 C.A. Roberson, Fort Worth TX 76119. This facility is located in southeast Fort Worth at IH-20 and Wichita Street (east of IH-35W).]

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