This message came to me from a friend, and I wanted to pass it along…

“I would like to thank all of you that offered your prayers and support for my family during the recent hurricane and the aftermath. I am from California but the roots of my father’s side of our family are in New Orleans and Louisiana. My grandmother moved to the Bay Area in California from New Orleans during World War II to help build battleships and ended up settling there. She was one of 12 children and some of her immediate family members left Louisiana. Of course, some stayed in Louisiana and raised families. One of my best friends from childhood is a lawyer in New Orleans, has lived there for 12 years and has a family. So I have many friends and family who live in the region.

For those of you who didn’t know the situation or who don’t know me very well, I have 6 relatives who were among the thousands of people who couldn’t or didn’t leave New Orleans for various reasons. They were stuck in the city at a hotel and then forced to live on the I-10 overpass (that many of us saw on TV) for 4 days. I discovered on Sunday that some members of my family had been flown from New Orleans to San Antonio. I immediately flew to San Antonio with my cousin and picked them up from Kelly Air Force Base. We drove back from San Antonio Monday evening and arrived here in Atlanta late Tuesday morning. Three of them are here and doing as well as they can be considering their experiences. There are 3 of my family members who we have not spoken to because they were separated at different points during the ordeal. But we have some information on where they are. We are hoping to track them down and find out about their conditions soon. I ask you to keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

I am also writing to implore all of you, regardless of your race, political affiliation, income status- any factor that usually divides us in this country, to volunteer in some capacity for the relief effort. Do anything you possibly can. I sat with my family for a while after we had picked them up and they told me about the horrific experiences they and others had endured. The filthy water was chest high in the streets as they struggle to get to dry ground. People were being assaulted, raped and killed. My uncle, in his 80s, spoke of seeing dead infants floating in the water on the streets. My 87-year old aunt, who cannot get around without a walker, told me of how she could hear shooters’ bullets flying past as she was being lifted into a Coast Guard helicopter.

They also spoke of valiant and courageous people of all colors who helped them to survive. There were so-called “looters” who brought my family food and water for days before supplies were being delivered, when there was no food or water. Young black men who made shading out of plastic to help the elderly survive the suffocating heat in the daytime. Men who made rafts out of doors, floating infants to safety. Men who physically carried my aunt down 6 flights of stairs and placed on her on a raft to help her get to the I-10 overpass.

I am not here to criticize law enforcement, the government, or any other body. But many more people would have died, maybe even members of my family, if it weren’t for the efforts of ordinary people who cared enough to help save lives when the police and the government could not or did not help. These people need help of any kind. They need clothing and support. Many of these people, including the members of my family, have lost their homes and all their belongings. They’ve lost loved ones and they’ve essentially lost a city that they may never be able to go back to. There are many displaced people, like my uncle, who have fought in wars to defend this country. It’s now our time and our duty to help these people rebuild their lives.

Giving money to the Red Cross is a good option. You can contact the Red Cross to find out about volunteering if you have the time. You can donate clothes you don’t wear anymore or clothes that you still wear to shelters set up in town. You can simply offer to visit and help out shelters, talk to people, let people know that you care as a human being. It doesn’t have to be money, although the money does help. Nothing is too little or too much. So I also write to say thank you in advance for the help you will give.”