This site includes the postings from the Irish Aires email list. This includes a listing of Irish/Celtic events in the Houston area and other information that the Irish Aires radio program posts.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Update: Katrina & The Irish

IA 09/03/05 IAUC Update ST 09/04/05 Ireland Counts Dead And Missing In New Orleans UT 09/04/05 Sergeant Saved Irish Students In US ****************************************** An Update to Irish American Unity Conference Members: To All IAUC Members, Our hearts go out to all who are experiencing the devastation caused by the hurricane. Fortunately we do not have any IAUC members in Mississippi. Unfortunately, we do have two members in the New Orleans area, Mr. William Donoghue and Ms. Erin Powell. I tried to reach them by phone immediately after the storm struck, but of course the circuits were overloaded. Please pray for them and their families. We also have two members in Alabama, I managed to leave a message with Mr. Milton Foley, I am not sure if he is in an affected area, but he may know what we can do to help. Unfortunately, when I called to speak with our other member there, Mr. Jim Qualls, I was informed by his daughter that he had passed away last night of cancer. I will send out a sympathy card today from all of us. The national board is discussing ways the IAUC can assist these members in anyway we can, once they are located. I will continue to try to get in touch with them. Meanwhile if anyone has ideas they would like to share on the best way to get this project up and running - let us know. Maggie VanCleave, a member in Pittsburgh has a son that lives in New Orleans. She said, "he and a friend were able to leave the night before the storm hit, with only what they could pack in their car. In an attempt to escape and sitting in bumper to bumper traffic the first motel they found with a vacancy was in Memphis, TN. All other motels were filled. Their plan was to return the next day, however when they saw the actual devastation (their condo was totally underwater) the reality hit home. He has lost everything. However, there are those people who had nothing to begin with; he told me the poverty level is 70% of the people. The houses they lived in would be condemned here." Jay Dooling of the IAUC - James Delaney Chapter in Texas has offered to coordinate any efforts in locating and helping members and Irish nationals who may have been evacuated to Texas. Gretchen Bales, President of the IAUC - Indiana Chapter, has several relatives who have been displaced from their homes in the Louisiana area. She and other relatives have offered them a place to stay, during the time it takes for them to get their homes and work back in order. Fiona Ferry, 4 year old daughter of Irish deportee Ciaran Ferry, has launched an online auction on Ebay to try to make a difference to help animals that were stranded or hurt in Hurricane Katrina. Heaven and Fiona visited New Orleans last Fall to take their minds off of the nightmare their family was going through. Unfortunately, they had planned another trip back this fall. To view the auction: name=STRK%3AMESE%3AIT&rd=1 IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM LEE POWELL For any IAUC members in the hurricane disaster area or with relatives or friends there, I would like to send along this information. I am the director of the Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus, a nonprofit that works on poverty in the region including Louisiana and Mississippi, so obviously many of our partners are affected by this: Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus We are in communication with the Red Cross staging area for the disaster relief based here in Little Rock, and they advise the following: 1) For our partners in Louisiana and Mississippi who are either in the disaster area or relatively close to it, please give us any specific needs that you have and we will do our best to respond. 2) For people farther away, here is contact information for those wishing to donate to hurricane relief efforts and for those seeking information about shelters for evacuees: AMERICAN RED CROSS 1 (800) HELP-NOW SALVATION ARMY 1 (800) SAL-ARMY EPISCOPAL DIOCESE OF ARKANSAS (accepting monetary donations by regular mail to be sent to churches in Louisiana and Mississippi) P.O. Box 164668 Little Rock, Arkansas (AR) 72216 Information on Arkansas hotels and emergency shelters: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has information at its website, Information about hotel availability in Little Rock: 1-800- 844-4781 THE BANNER NEWS (accepting monetary donations by regular mail for the local Red Cross Chapter) 130 S. Washington Street Magnolia, AR 71753 For volunteers who wish to go to the disaster area and help in person, the Red Cross advises that it will be at least a week before that will be feasible. Any other help at this time will be greatfully appreciated. Thanks--Lee Powell, Mississippi Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347 Deanna Turner is checking the Red Cross List for other members of the IAUC who may need our help. If you know of any members who may have been affected or if you would like to help, please contact us. Donations may be mailed to: IRISH AMERICAN UNITY CONFERENCE Attn: Hurricane Relief Effort 611 Pennsylvania Ave, SE # 4150 Washington, D.C. 20003 THANK YOU SO MUCH. Briana Learnihan Membership Chair Tel: #510-910-0966 Email: ******************************************,,2091-1764162,00.html Ireland Counts Dead And Missing In New Orleans Dearbhail McDonald and Richard Oakley ONE Irishman is feared dead and another 10 Irish people are unaccounted for in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The man, in his twenties, was travelling in Biloxi, one of the areas worst affected by the disaster. Officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs, who are trying to locate him, say severe communication problems are hampering their efforts. "It is not a stable situation. The numbers of missing people are fluctuating and we have been inundated with calls," a department official said. Forty-five families contacted the department following the hurricane, but most Irish nationals now have been located and tourists trapped in the region will be flown home within days. Una Ni Dhubhghaill, the Irish vice-consul general in Chicago, has travelled to Dallas to assist Irish citizens caught up in the disaster. In Houston, Texas, the Irish Society is asking volunteers to walk the streets with Irish tricolours in order to attract evacuees from the republic who may be stranded in "the mass of humanity" of refugees filing into the city. Last night Dermot Ahern, the minister for foreign affairs, contacted the parents of three Irish students and told them their sons — the first of the Irish survivors to be rescued — would arrive back in Dublin today. Conor Lally, 20, Patrick Clarke, 21, and Tomas McLoughlin, all from Blackrock, Co Louth, had gone to Myrtle Beach on J1 visas for the summer. When Katrina swept into New Orleans they sought refuge in the Superdome stadium, but later sent texts home to say they had witnessed rapes, gang warfare and fighting among looters. "It is every parent's worst nightmare,"said Jim Lally, Conor's father. "My son went away as a 20-year-old boy and will probably return with the life experience of a 50-year- old man. This has been the worst week of our life, it was horrendous, but I just got a text from Dermot Ahern to say that the boys will be in Dublin at 8.30 in the morning. "The boys are in great form, they laughed when they heard they were all over the headlines and their friends are calling them the Blackrock Three. But it has been a harrowing experience and they may need counselling when they got home." Newlyweds Jean Wheatfield and Michael Leyden from Dromahair, Leitrim, who went to New Orleans for their honeymoon, were missing for five days before being airlifted to safety by the American military. Married three weeks ago, their honeymoon was cut short when their hotel in the Latin Quarter was flooded. The couple say they were caught up in gun battles, threatened by gangs, witnessed a massive explosion and tried unsuccessfully to flee on foot. "I honestly thought we were going to die, it was terrifying," said Wheatfield, who is from Dublin. "We became prisoners in our hotel as the waters rose. Outside we could hear gunfire and explosions but we knew we had to try to escape because the situation was getting more and more dangerous." The couple, who were stranded at Baton Rouge airport with more than 5,000 tourists, flew last night to Newark, New Jersey, and will return to Ireland later this week. "I won't rest until I actually see them and wrap my arms around them," said Terry Leyden, Michael's father. "We are in bits, and so are Jean's family. One minute we were sharing a day of joy at their wedding and the next it is absolute gloom." Yesterday families of young travellers stranded in the Superdome stadium said the response of American authorities had been chaotic. The Britons and Irish, many of them recent graduates, were herded into the stadium along with around 25,000 other people unable to flee the city. The building was later declared unsafe but evacuation was halted after rescue workers came under sniper fire. The girlfriend of one Briton was threatened with rape, and another reported that people trapped inside were so desperate that one leapt to her death. Will Nelson, 21, of Epsom, Surrey, sent an impassioned e- mail to his family on Friday pleading for help. He wrote: "Please can you try and contact the embassy, tell them that we really need their help with getting out of here — it's turning into a war zone." Yesterday he said troops in the Superdome had told foreigners to use sharp objects like scissors or tweezers to protect themselves from gangs. "At one point we had to carry a US national guard on a stretcher after he was shot by looters," he said. Louis Lohan, from Newbridge, Galway, the parish priest at St Thomas the Apostle's church in Long Beach, Biloxi, is believed to be cycling around comforting parishioners. Joe Lohan, his brother and a teacher in Ballygar secondary school, said the church had been destroyed along with a newly built community centre and a nearby school. Lohan, who has two brothers and four sisters all living in Ireland, was due to travel home today for a brief holiday. Joe said: "We were worried from Tuesday on, because we couldn't get in contact with him. By Thursday we were very anxious, but then we heard that he was in a house and he was safe. We don't know where this is, but we believe he was staying with a friend. We have been assured that he has food and clothes and that the house has a generator." There are nearly 80 Irish priests and nuns working in the Mississippi area. According to Tommy Conway, a priest from Galway, most have now been accounted for. "We can't make any calls here. We are in the middle of it, but everyone on the outside knows more than us," he said. The 43-year-old priest has spent the past few days driving around in his pick-up trying to get ice and water for parishioners and checking if he can hold a mass in his church, St Thomas Aquinas near the Southern Mississippi university. "When you stop and take in what has happened, you want to cry," he said. "But you have to think positively and there are people worse off than us." Patrick McDermott, a priest from Glenties, Donegal, who is in Ireland on vacation, said his parish is decimated. McDermott, the administrator of Our Lady of Victories parish church in Pascagoula, Mississippi, said 90% of his parish had been demolished by Katrina. "Our church is submerged in 9ft of water; we've lost everything," he said. "I feel terrible. All the priests and nuns in our community are Irish and we are strong people, we will just have to help each other." Irish diplomatic staff have been sent to Texas and other Irish American hubs, including San Antonio, to help evacuees. Yesterday Irish people were told to stop panic-buying petrol. There had been warnings that the price of unleaded petrol could rise above €1.30 as a result of the "Katrina factor" but the AA said it was more likely that prices would rise by about 5c a litre, to an average of €1.13 a litre. ****************************************** Sergeant Saved Irish Students In US A Sergeant with the American National Guard defied orders to save three Irish students from street gangs wreaking havoc in a makeshift refugee camp in New Orleans. By:Press Association The boyhood friends from Blackrock, County Louth who returned home today told how a burly officer named Sgt Ogden took them under his wing and guaranteed their safety. Tomas McLaughlin, Conor Lally and Patrick Clarke, who were left stranded after Hurricane Katrina hit land, described the officer as "a lifesaver". The trio were ordered to take shelter in the city`s Superdome on Sunday night. They said police officers warned them about riots and fights between gangs and that a number of rapes had occurred. Inside the dome, paramedics warned them that a soldier had been overpowered in the toilets and shot in a leg with his own rifle. Patrick, a 20-year-old photography student, said city streets strewn with bodies and the mayhem of the dome left New Orleans looking more like a war zone. "As time went on, because the National Guard didn`t have enough troops there to take control of the situation, tempers were beginning to fray. The situation is just getting worse," he said. "New Orleans is a war zone at the moment. Now we only experienced this very briefly but the American Government, I mean really, have to get in their now, quickly." Patrick said by working as a group with many other travellers they managed to get the help of Sgt Ogden. After a tearful reunion with family and friends, the students told how they fled the mayhem in the dome. The trio said 103 foreigners were taken out of the dome under the orders of National Guardsman Sgt Ogden. The students said he ignored initial commands to keep everyone inside and told troops to bring them to safety. With little food or water for three nights the group were taken to a nearby medical centre. Facing a barrage of verbal, and some physical, abuse from those left behind, Sgt Ogden ensured the students were not harmed, they said. "We had to be escorted by the National Guard out, there was a lot of people coming up to us, saying are you leaving and just shouting abuse at us just basically because we were getting out. They just felt trapped," Conor said. A day and a half later the three set off on a 10 hour bus journey to Dallas, Texas to be flown home. "The people that looked after us are doing such a phenomenal job and I cannot have enough praise for these soldiers for these medical staff who took care of us and are still there," Patrick said. "After we were safe they went back in and did what they could and are still doing what they could." ---- Tomas, a 20-year-old student at the National University of Ireland in Galway told how the week`s events unfolded. "We decided to go to the Superdome on Sunday evening and the hurricane occurred that night, early Monday morning, and we were there until Wednesday morning," he said. "It was just a scary, scary place. We were just so grateful to get out. It was just dangerous. "The corridors were packed, it was very over populated, no electricity, no running water, no flushing water which was a big one, no hygiene. We were on army rations. "There wasn`t enough water to go around. A lot of people there were poor. The standard of living was very low therefore the conditions were just horrific." The students, who travelled to the United States for a working holiday on J1 visas and spent a number of weeks at Myrtle Beach in North Carolina, had harsh words for the US government`s relief operation. Conor, a 20-year-old student at Queen`s University, Belfast said people`s thoughts should be with the poor and homeless in the southern states. "We are the lucky ones, It`s the people in New Orleans that are still left there," Conor said. "America, everyone thinks it must be a rich country, but people really have to try and give as much help and aid across the world as they can because the government certainly are not getting it to the people of New Orleans." The trio, from the seaside village of Blackrock, Co Louth, paid tribute to the soldiers from the National Guard who escorted them from the Superdome and onto safety. Patrick Clark, who is studying photography in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, said complete strangers took the lads under their wing in a bid to return them to their families. "We got out just from the infinite kindness of complete strangers. The American government did nothing to help us," the 21-year-old said. "When we were there we bonded together with a group of other international students, travellers in general, English, Australian, Canadian, people from all over the world and we got together in an attempt to try and get in contact with our embassies. "Through that we got in contact with a lifesaver called Sergeant Ogden and through him he brought us out of the dome, brought us to a safe place, and from there we were able to get in contact with our embassies." The students were taken to a nearby temporary medical centre before travelling 10 hours to Dallas, Texas where Irish Consular staff were on hand to assist their return. The families of the trio paid tribute to the work of embassy staff in America and Irish Foreign Affairs minister Dermot Ahern, in whose Louth constituency they live. Pat Clark, father of photography student Patrick, said staff in the Department of Foreign Affairs were brilliant. "They were terrific, Dermot Ahern and the Department of Foreign Affairs were just brilliant, the Consul in Chicago they all worked full time," Mr Clark said. As the three students emerged from the arrivals terminal at Dublin airport they were greeted with cheers, applause and floods of tears from family and friends. Josephine Clark said it was brilliant to have her son and his friends back in Ireland and looking so well. "It`s just brilliant to have them back again. I`m just so grateful to everybody helping out there and everybody who was so kind to us here. Good wishes and good thoughts from everybody," she said. She said she had been worried sick for the last seven days panicking over how the boys would return home. "It was horrific, absolutely horrific. I just don`t know what to say, it`s brilliant to have the three of them home again and looking so well," she said. "It`s unbelievable. I`m just so happy we really are so lucky because there`s a lot of families who are not as happy as we are this morning.
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?