Today, I regret to report, low moral.
It is hot, humid, I am tired and so are many of the SAR volunteers. It has been more than a week since the tornado, and the city has been combined once and again, and again already. They want us to comb through everything walking one block at a time just to make absolutely sure. They tell me in the first several days, nearly each grid walked would turn up pieces and body parts.
Yes sir, that’s what we’re doing. There were over 230 persons reported missing 5 days ago, and now we are down to 10 missing. Many of these simply turn up out of town, safely with friends, or just didn’t know that they were reported missing, and didn’t speak up.
It is strange that the human’s weakest sense, smell, in this situation is now the most useful. Here is the game: a search party picks out a block, then starts at the downwind endge of it, fans out and slowly walks from one end to the other, looking in debris piles, combing through yards and trashed structures, smelling for any signs of rotting meat. In this heat and humidity, you’d be surprised how accurate it can be. While I have not come across any bodies, we have had several false alarms which were excellent practice, and surprisingly accurate. Each time as we walk, catch a whiff of that turpid smell, and then start sniffing around, searching upwind. Sure enough, 20 feet up wind is a dead python, a turkey, squirrel, or rotting meat out of a freezer.
Teams like this comprise of only a small fraction of the volunteer effort. The vast majority of volunteers, in the hundreds, are there to help move, sort, and remove debris from local damaged houses, or clear them before and after demolition. Then there are many groups who have set up kitchens and water stations throughout, or patrol in their pickup beds offering sandwhiches, gatorade, tamales, bbq, and bottled water to volunteers and residents in affected areas.
On top of that there are all sorts of other groups moving about, construction companies, powerline crews, insurance claims adjusters, cell phone companies, charitable orgs, churches, tons of people are out here.
Though today, some of us called it off early. Where as in past days we moved with purpose and idealism, today our feet our tired, our eyes no longer shine, and our spirits are dampened. For many of us, we just want to feel wanted, to be useful, to be able to shake someone’s hand and lend a hand, and feel like our sacrifices to come here were worthwhile. We are trying to resist the urge to get discouraged.