- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

TYLER, Texas — Beth Nunneley wanted to stay by her husband’s bedside in the intensive care unit at New Orleans’ Charity Hospital but, as Hurricane Katrina closed in, she was forced to evacuate the city.

Hundreds of miles and four days later, Mrs. Nunneley anxiously awaits word on his condition.

“I feel sure he’s alive, somewhere,” she said. “He’s a tough old goat, but where is he? Where?”

The Covington, La., resident is one of hundreds of evacuees stranded without information in this east Texas town’s First Christian Church, where they have been welcomed with free meals and clothing at the Red Cross-run shelter.

“I’ve never imagined anything so wonderful could come out of something so horrible,” said Minnie Forsythe, who arrived on Monday with four children and two grandchildren — all in a seven-year-old Honda. “These people are God-sent.”

Beds were set up in a large gymnasium. Close by was a nursery for the young and rooms full of clothing, blankets and personal hygiene necessities, available to any and all.

“Please only take what you need today,” read a hand-scrawled sign on the door of the storeroom.

Outside the parking lot remained filled, with area folks dropping by canned goods, clothing and toys for the evacuees who had filled it to its capacity of 300 within hours of its opening.

“We’ve been asked to provide long-term shelter for 21 days,” said Susan Campbell, of the Smith County Red Cross. She said that if some needed to stay longer, they might have to reduce the population and/or open a second shelter.

A couple miles from that shelter, two families huddled in the doorways of their Loop 323 motel, trying to figure out what to do next.

Mrs. Josephine Cage, 61, sat quietly in a lawn chair — words not coming easily.

She refused to complain, but two of her sons, Achonta, 20, and Jarred, 15, said their mother was down to her last couple of pills. She is a diabetic, they explained, requiring daily insulin and blood-thinning drugs.

“Darndest thing,” she said, “Those prescriptions were supposed to come today, the first.” She said she was on welfare. “Yeah and that check was supposed to arrive today, too.”

The Cage children said they would be forced to leave the motel to find one somewhat cheaper. While the mother was being interviewed, one son came back and said, “We can go to the Motel 6 for $47.99.” They began to pack.

Back at the shelter, Kinsey Trimble sat just outside smoking a cigarette and petting a small mongrel dog. “He’s a wild dog killer,” Mr. Trimble, 66, said. “I don’t worry about him — but I’m getting pretty … tired.”

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