Our guests at Camp Gruber

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Jerry Buchanan, chairman of the Tulsa County Republican Party, toured Camp Gruber on Tuesday with a group of state legislators. Camp Gruber, near Muskogee, is the first location in Oklahoma to receive a large number of refugees from Hurricane Katrina. Here's Jerry's report -- it's encouraging:

Today, I had the privilege to tour with a delegation from Tulsa, the displaced Americans from Louisiana placed at Camp Gruber, near Muskogee. We talked with people that were in the Astrodome, people that were from the Communities around New Orleans that lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, people that lost family members, friends and pets.

The delegation was made up of your own State Representatives Fred Perry, Pam Peterson, John Wright and John Trebilcock. Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel, Ken McConkey from Senator Jim Inhofe’s office,
Clay Bird, Chief of Staff from Mayor LaFortune’s office, along with Stacy Ward, CERT program director of Homeland Security in Tulsa, and Tulsa Police Chaplain Director Danny Lynchard traveled with us.

Oklahoma Senator Jim Williamson and Representative Dan Sullivan toured the Camp yesterday. They found what we found, people that are being treated with respect and dignity. The Oklahoma National Guard and Oklahoma Highway Patrol are in charge and they are organized, friendly and compassionate with authority that is appreciated by all. The Red Cross volunteers move like angels to and fro tirelessly like a breath of fresh air.

Our guests at Camp Gruber are not thugs that looted the businesses. Nor are they dirty, drugged out or rude. They are people that have endured hardships that most people have only imagined in a nightmare or in a horror movie. They are people that have lost their homes, cars and all material things, but they have not lost their pride or their spirit to start over.

Today, I spoke with five men outside a dining facility. One was a construction worker, one was a backhoe operator, one was a brick mason, one was a floor tile cutter and one was a cable layer. All, however, said they could do many other things to make a living if given the chance. The question we heard over and over was “where can we get work. We love Oklahoma and the people here have just overwhelmed us with kindness and generosity. Does Tulsa have jobs for us? We would love to move to Tulsa if the people are like the rest of the Oklahomans we have encountered.”

Most everyone at Camp Gruber have accepted the fact that all of their worldly goods have been lost in Louisiana and are ready to relocate in Tulsa, Oklahoma City or where ever they can find a job and make a living for themselves and their families. Over and over I heard “God Bless Oklahoma!” A little girl actually kissed my hand and said “thank you for all you have done for us”, making me feel awkward and humbled.

These guests are not blaming God or the federal government for their predicament. They are just trying to deal with a very bad situation as best as they can. They now realize that the Governor of Louisiana did not act promptly. They know when Louisiana’s Governor Blanco did allow the National Guard to take charge, things begin to happen for the better and it is getting better every day.

In their living quarters, twenty or more people gather around a single TV set trying to see the latest news. Some try to nap in the heat of the day to pass the time. Others watch with anticipation the activities of the Red Cross, National Guard, Highway Patrol and in today’s case your own elected officials shaking hands giving signs of hope and words of encouragement.

Today’s events make me even more proud to be an Oklahoman. Proud to have elected officials that are willing to roll up their sleeves and pass out water, toiletries and what ever it takes to help these desperate people from the sister states of Louisiana and Mississippi. Proud of a President that has three times, that we know of, visited the devastated area and prays for the families and victims daily.

If it seems to you that I am somewhat overwhelmed, you are correct.


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4 Comments

susan said:

Mark, Susan, Chris and Brittany Easter served with the RED CROSS all day at Camp Gruber. It was a pleasure to serve these people. Many adults that survived did tell us they were very unhappy with the Lousiana Mayor and Lousiana Governor. It's good to be a good listener at a crisis like this and hear what the adults that have lived in this state for many years have to say. The children, youth so precious and so thankful for everything we gave them all day as well as how we helped the adults at Camp Gruber. Mark Easter is a Director of I.T. He was able to help several victims we served at Camp Gruber find their loved ones that were taken to other locations. The men want to get to work as quickly as possible, so businesses should work with the Red Cross and see these willing able workers get jobs. I saw the story in the Tulsa World today about members of the Vision of Hope in Redbird have offered Hurricane Katrina evacuees LAND for new homes around their church.

One man told me I am a construction worker, but I want to get a job here in Oklahoma and stay here. Many were already very ready to get back to work and the children ready to begin school as quickly as possible to get into a set routine.

Susan Easter

W. Author Profile Page said:

Thanks for posting this, Michael.

George said:

I am disappointed but not surprised by the typical Republican defensiveness, specifically:

"They now realize that the Governor of Louisiana did not act promptly. They know when Louisiana’s Governor Blanco did allow the National Guard to take charge, things begin to happen for the better and it is getting better every day."

This remark is inaccurate, it is documented to be inaccurate, and it's a shame that Jerry feels it neccessary to interject partisanship into a story that should stick to the humanitarian effort at hand.

susan said:

I hope Mike Bates will strongly think about running for Mayor in the next election. When disasters like this happen, it would be an asset if the Mayor would have the highest tech skills to send and receive information. If the levees can be repaired at such a quick response as has happened recently, why did their government not respond to this urgent need when they had been warned by engineers? One man from Louisiana told me Louisiana had received money over the years to fix the levees but the money was spent elsewhere.

There will be investigations by the government to see what went wrong and how to improve. I just hope more Americans will go to the Red Cross and learn how they too can help in disaster relief. It's not just about photo opportunities in handing out a few supplies for a brief period of time by our state officials. It's about caring enough for others. I can say firsthand from working all day long at Camp Gruber, the Red Cross workers and Salvation Army workers were superior in comforting the needs of the heart of ALL those in need there.
As Americans, we have the opportunity of using those same skills and caring skills not just in a time of disaster, but in our workplace,
schools, extracurricular activities, and government.

Susan Easter

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on September 7, 2005 12:41 AM.

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