The Hard Reality–Who’s Dead, Who’s Alive

The headline in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger
put it bluntly, “Who’s Dead, Who’s Alive.”

The headline in this morning’s Jackson Clarion-Ledger put it bluntly, “Who’s Dead, Who’s Alive.”

In a storm that has dislocated and dispersed so many, the time has come to account for the dead and missing. People dealing with the most basic survival needs have had little time to do assessment and most are so far from home it’s impossible anyway. That task is left to those emergency workers now in the area.

In most places we visited they have already been to the sites of gravest destruction, leaving spray-painted x’s on rubble indicating the presence of ruptured natural gas lines, electrical lines, occupants or fatalities. But the task of accounting for those who haven’t been heard from remains. In Mississippi they number an estimated 500 or more. In New Orleans, the numbers are higher but they keep changing as people manage to reach relatives to confirm their status.

The chaotic evacuation immediately before the storm has only added to the confusion. One family of 52 people started from New Orleans in seven cars heading north with no particular destination in mind.

Clogged roads led them to turn westward, but congestion and news reports turned them eastward where they ended up in Meridian, Mississippi. As wind and wind-driven rain lashed the dark roadway they asked a local woman where they could find shelter. She led them to Central United Methodist Church. They’ve been there since.

The church has found apartments, assisted children to enroll in school and helped some of the family find jobs locally. By Tuesday this family will move out of the shelter and into an apartment.

But questions still remain. Evacuees can use computers at many shelters to post their whereabouts on the Internet and many have found family and friends in this way. It’s those who haven’t been heard from that raise fears. The hard question is about them: “Who’s dead, who’s alive?”

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