Along the Hurricane-Stricken Gulf Coast This Thanksgiving, There's Not a Lot To Be Thankful For
NEW ORLEANS Debbie Shifter faces the daunting task of whipping up Thanksgiving dinner for 18 in the tiny kitchen of her trailer provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Shifter, who lives in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, had to drive 45 minutes to find a store that survived Hurricane Katrina. Downsizing the ingredients to fit her compact oven, she will serve a 13-pound (6-kilogram) turkey -- traditionally eaten on Thanksgiving in the U.S. -- instead of the usual 20-pounder (9 kilograms). Because of a lack of counter space, she will do the chopping and dicing on two wooden TV trays in her living room.
Guests will eat outside at a plastic table on her lawn, or in shifts at the kitchen table. Dinner will be served on paper plates with plastic utensils.
"We done lost everything we owned, just about -- except for us," she said, standing next to the ruins of the larger trailer home she once called home. "We're going to stick together at all of our holidays."
For many people across the hurricane-stricken U.S. Gulf Coast, this is going to be a grim Thanksgiving.
In New Orleans, where death and destruction still hang over the many empty streets and ruined neighborhoods, Eldon Robinson's thoughts are on his five pieces of storm-damaged property, not a Thanksgiving Day spread.
"I'll be eating no turkey," said Robinson, a 64-year-old landlord, as he picked up bottled water from a food distribution point. "I can't afford to buy no turkey."
Instead, he will work on his damaged roofs, kick himself for dropping insurance on his rental property before Katrina struck Aug. 29 and wish his family could be together. His wife is going to north Louisiana, where their two daughters live.
Johnnie Clark, an 83-year-old farmer who works 40 acres (16 hectares) outside the city, used to spend Thanksgiving selling peas, turnips, sweet potatoes and other produce at farmers' markets in New Orleans. But Clark is not going to market this year.
The carrot slicers, salad spinners, chopping boards and pea shellers he kept in his New Orleans home are caked in slime, rendered unusable.
"We'll have a little celebration on Thanksgiving," he said softly. "We're not going to let things like this stop us. It wouldn't be good for the family or the house or the city."
Some hope the holiday season will help people in this hurricane-ravaged region reset their moral compass.
"We need to be back with our families to give that good Southern hug," said Glenn Mistich, a butcher who supplies the famous Louisiana Thanksgiving specialty known as turducken: a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken.
When Katrina hit, the refrigerators went out at his shop in the suburb of Gretna, spoiling 4,000 turduckens, 3,800 boned chickens and about 700 stuffed chickens.
With his poultry supplier under water, he had birds shipped in from Houston and got his turducken assembly line fired up again. He was rushing to fill orders this week.
Volunteers, celebrities, churches and aid organizations are rallying to serve meals to the tens of thousands of displaced and penniless victims.
"I want to feed those who are homeless, out of work," said Heidi Bruno, a 47-year-old Slidell, Louisiana, woman who is homeless herself. Her home still has no power, and she and her 30-year-old son have been staying with friends in New Orleans for the past month.
On the weekend after Thanksgiving, she will serve up food at her Pentecostal church. "I don't know what we'll be feeding them," she said, "but it will be hot and a blessing."
Albinas Prizgintas, a pipe organist at Trinity Episcopal Church in New Orleans, said: "Despite the fact so many people have lost so much, there's a sense we have so much to be thankful for."
Source: Associated Press