Local couple discover hope amid Katrina devastation
Seattle Times Eastside bureau
Corey Goldstein and his fiancée, Shannon Roosma, knew they had to do something.
The horrors of Hurricane Katrina had played out for days on television in their South Seattle home. The couple were planning their December wedding, but they decided that could be put aside.
Goldstein began making phone calls. He lined up contacts in Alabama and Mississippi and bought two $500 tickets to Gulfport, Miss. He and Roosma would be gone for five days.
The couple weren't sure what to expect. Both are health-care workers, but neither had experience with disaster relief. They left Sept. 12 toting suitcases crammed with medical supplies and toys. They said they knew they'd encounter hungry people, battered bodies, broken souls.
They were surprised to find a quiet hope blossoming among the devastation.
The couple began their journey in Mobile, Ala., working with Catholic Social Services.
The extent of the wreckage threw off Roosma at first. "You can't even describe the destruction," she said. "It was like a war zone."
Goldstein, 46, a Group Health teen counselor, and Roosma, 36, a public-health nurse for King County, passed out supplies and sorted piles of donated clothes. They didn't mind that they weren't called on for their health-care skills.
"When I think of disaster relief, I think of doing what needs to be done," Goldstein said. "If that means unloading trucks, that's what I'll do."
After three days, the couple drove two hours to Waveland, Miss., a town of roughly 7,000 people decimated by the storm. In a Kmart parking lot, Goldstein and Roosma were put to work at "Camp Katrina," a food, hospital and clothing base assembled under circus-size tents.
Goldstein emptied semitrailers in 95-degree heat while Roosma worked in the kitchen. They talked to people, one survivor after another, who shared their stories.
There was a man Goldstein met, he said, who was in his 60s and walked 17 miles with a cane to find food at Camp Katrina.
"He had lost his home, his wife, everything," Goldstein said.
There was also a deep gratitude in the eyes of a woman when Goldstein handed her extra cases of bottled water. "Thank you," she said, almost apologetic for having to ask.
They flew back on Sept. 17. Coming home to Seattle felt surreal, Roosma said. Nothing else seemed important. Roosma would look at her watch and calculate what time it was in Mississippi, what her fellow volunteers were doing. She'd think about all the people she could be helping instead of sitting in a meeting back at work, she said.
But there was still a December wedding to plan and jobs to focus on again. Thumbing through a photo album from their trip last week, they were struck once again by what they saw and the resilience of the people they met.
"There was a strength about them that was inspiring," said Goldstein.
Then he flipped to a photograph of a home in Waveland. Spray-painted on the front were the words "Here to Stay."
Sonia Krishnan: 206-515-5546 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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