Saving Biloxiby Steve Charles
|Printer-friendly version | Email this article|
In September 2005, A.J. Lyman ’05 joined the AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team and was sent to Biloxi, Mississippi, to help with relief efforts in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Lyman is one of a growing number of Wabash graduates choosing service work in AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, Teach For America, and other organizations.
WM contacted A.J. at his post in Pass Christian, MS to find out how things were going so far:
WM: What was your initial reason for doing service work instead of entering the job market? Why AmeriCorps?
Friends of mine had done AmeriCorps, so I looked at the different programs they had to offer. I chose the AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team because of the variety of experiences it offered. We respond to natural disasters, fight wildfires, and do conservation work, all things I was very interested in getting involved in.
I thought briefly about Peace Corps, but wanted to stay in the States, and I had a lot more opportunity to choose exactly what I wanted to do in AmeriCorps.
Yet seeing the progress of the recovery effort, and where I’ve had a hand in it, is extremely rewarding. So is the gratitude of those I’ve helped.
After the rains had stopped, our contact with the Salvation Army told us that the three of us had saved 80 percent of the goods there. He said that we’d kept Biloxi alive, because the Salvation Army was the only relief effort in place. That was a great feeling.
Later, I was helping a lady who had lost four members of her family to the storm. All we could do was help clear her yard of snapped trees and brush, but even though she’d lost so much, she was still appreciative that people had come to help her.
That moment pretty much changed my outlook on life. Even the small amount of help I gave a lady made a big difference to her. It’s easy to get hooked on a feeling like that.