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November 01, 2005  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

School buses sail to the rescue

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The following account details hurricane-related rescue and relief efforts taken on by the transportation department at St. Charles Parish Public Schools in Luling, La. It was written by Transportation Operations Coordinator Gary Martin.

St. Charles Parish was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina, but the eye of the hurricane passed over neighboring Jefferson Parish and Orleans Parish. Many of the evacuees came to our parish with no transportation, few belongings and many needs. Our transportation department was able to help our neighbors in many ways.

On the eve of the storm, our drivers pulled together and worked many long hours to take our residents to safety. They became vehicles of hope and salvation. In the storm’s aftermath, they put their own troubles behind them and became leaders at shelters statewide, reaching out to help our residents and winning their trust.

Back home, our buses rescued hundreds of frightened people fleeing their flooded homes. We got them to the first meals they’d eaten in days and much-needed medical assistance and care.

Drivers returned to the parishes, anxious to see their homes and families. They’d done their share and were tired.

But later that night, after they had already driven all day, 350 evacuees from Jefferson Parish came to our parish in dire need of food, water and emergency medical care. We sent out the call for drivers, and they left their homes and families and returned to help. Several of them drove until 5 a.m. the next morning. The Red Cross told me that they saved the lives of more than 170 people that night.

While the district was closed, our drivers assisted the residents of the local shelter, helping them get medicine, clothing and supplies.

Then there was the mission to the convention center, which is now the milestone of my life.

On Sept. 1, around 10:30 p.m., I was sitting in the St. Charles Parish Emergency Operations Center (EOC) about ready to call it a night when a request for two school buses came over the radio.

I asked Major Sam Zinna if they were requesting buses for the evacuees. He said, no, that they needed the buses for a mission to rescue some St. Charles Parish residents and nurses stranded and in danger at the Morial Convention Center. They needed a regular bus and a bus with a lift. I immediately said, “I want to go.”

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