Unfiltered Efforts: A Story of Hurricane Ida Relief

I will write this article not so much so as a news story, but more as a personal account of how amazing the entire effort felt.

Plus, I welcome all your comments, thoughts and your experiences!

Aug. 29, 2021 is when a very strong category 4 hurricane slammed the Louisiana coast. Aug. 29th is already a very sensitive day for me as that is the day 16 years prior, Hurricane Katrina left a path of destruction. My own family’s home in uptown in New Orleans took on five feet of water. I recall the anxiety, the devastation and what it felt like to come home to everything I had, now soaked. All these years later, I can’t get those images out of my mind. I remember what it felt like not even having clothes, a place to sleep and eating anything because you were so hungry. My point is, I knew what it felt like.

After Hurricane Ida hit, we couldn’t make it down to south Louisiana for a few days. When I finally went down for the first time, I tagged along with the Cajun Navy 2016 to Laplace. The next several days, I reported the devastation back to the viewers of Baton Rouge as best as I could. I saw the damage first-hand in St. John, St. Charles, Terrebonne, Lafourche & Lower Lafourche parishes.

It was one thing to report it, but it was completely different to see it in person. Tuesday, Sept. 7th, I remember looking at the time and thinking to myself, I just put in a 13-hour day and will get home at 10pm. Once again, I’ll put together a story for the BR viewers, but isn’t there more? Why be just a reporter? If I have a following, why not use it and let’s serve a purpose together.

I randomly threw up a post on FB asking what people thought of the idea if I could pull together an 18-wheeler that we fill up and take supplies down to the coast. The response was overwhelming. So the next day, Wednesday, Sept. 8th, that morning, the person I thought would be able to connect me with an 18-wheeler ended up being in Ohio, with his big rig. I was just about to drop the idea when Tommy Stojak from Sombrero’s in Walker reached out to me and said he had a big rig.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Not only was he offering the big rig, he also said he would help in any way he could. That call was around 11:30am. By 12:15pm, I went to see where this truck was parked and made it official. I posted that “Let’s fill up a big rig y’all!”

I decided we would be there from 4-7pm that Wednesday and then 9-6 Thursday & Friday and Saturday, we would head down and deliver the supplies. I got to the site for 3:30pm not knowing how anything would work or if anyone would even show up. I was praying we would actually get donations. Let’s just say I was blown away!

That’s what this story is about. I hope you can take 21 minutes out of your day to watch the generosity of the people. Dozens and dozens of volunteers showed up and took control on their own. They started dividing everything on their own, accepting the donations and organizing them. I would say hundreds of people over the course of 2.5 days dropped off donations.

Plus, the people who couldn’t physically drop off things, donated so much. In total, we ended up raising just under $13,000 and every single penny of that money was used towards buying supplies like ladders, fans, or meals & drinks for all the volunteers who showed up and stayed for hours.

Friday, the group decided we needed to start organizing everything and not wait till Saturday morning to do it. Thank goodness they did because it ended up taking most of the day and we were all there till past 8ish.

Every night, when I got home, I hurt in every direction but it felt amazing. We didn’t just fill up one big rig. We ended up needing a second one! So many people stepped up, companies donated and local law enforcement sent in help to ensure our donations weren’t stolen or to help with escorting the caravan down to Lafourche Parish.

It was truly the best experience of my life! To see the smiles on the faces when we made the deliveries was worth every muscle ache in my body. The friendships and bonds I made with people I didn’t even know prior to this big rig effort, they’re stuck with me forever now!

So I truly hope you enjoy the documentary that Media Desperado pieced together so wonderfully and left me in tears. Thank you everyone!!!!!

About Kiran Chawla 653 Articles
I'm an Emmy & Murrow Award winning investigative reporter who simply loves my job!

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