From: "Don M"
Date: 2005/09/22 Thu PM 10:12:27 EDT
To: Dick F"
Subject: Area 27 (Louisiana) Response to Multiple Kind and Loving Offers of Hurricane Katrina Support
TO GENERAL SERVICE CONFERENCE DELEGATES, TRUSTEES and GSO STAFF
Area 27 (Louisiana) has had some time to consider the hundreds upon hundreds of kind and loving offers of support from AAs around the world. We have begun to carefully assess our current situation and needs. Many of us are finally realizing that Katrina and the aftermath weren’t just a nasty dream, and many of us want to “do something” remedial “right now.” And, as I draft this email, there is another very ugly Hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico, Rita, which threatens our brothers and sisters in Texas, as well as southwestern Louisiana. By the time this email is actually sent, Rita may have created an entirely new set of AA needs elsewhere. Our hearts, prayers and knowing empathy go out to everyone in Rita’s path.
From the groups that form the Louisiana Area Assembly, please accept and pass on to the members of your respective groups, districts, areas and regions our immense gratitude and sense that we are not alone. We truly feel the love and support that began pouring in as Katrina moved over our Area, leaving an unbelievable path of destruction. We are humbled, overwhelmed and grateful beyond words.
In this email, and as we promised to get back to you, I will do my best to briefly fill you in on our Area Assembly’s position on contributions from outside of our Area, and our attempt to work in the solution and apply our principals. At the outset, please accept my apology for the length of this email. Also, please note that we have not had an Area Assembly or Area Committee meeting since Katrina, and that finding people and communicating generally are difficult as of now. With that caveat, here is our Area 27 response.
LOUISIANA AREA ASSEMBLY NEEDS AND ATTEMPT TO APPLY OUR SEVENTH TRADITION
This statement of position is on behalf of the Louisiana Area Assembly. We note that there are other autonomous AA entities in Louisiana that may have a different perspective, and we do not attempt to speak for any other AA entity. At this time, our Area does not require outside financial support regarding the damages inflicted by Hurricane Katrina. Of course, we are overwhelmed and immensely grateful for the thousands of kind and loving offers of financial support, including offers to provide literature.
Our Seventh Tradition guides us to seek support from our groups and members in our own Area in the first instance. And, as an AA entity, we avoid accumulating funds in excess of our reasonably immediate needs. At the moment, it is very difficult to predict what our specific needs are and will be in the near future. Even so, our Area presently has significant resources that it is committed to directly applying to provide any required assistance in rebuilding AA infrastructure in the New Orleans and Slidell areas, reconnecting the AA groups and members, and otherwise assisting in carrying the message. Moreover, we have reason to believe that the groups and members of the groups that make up our Area Assembly are similarly committed to all such efforts. In short, we believe that where a need is expressed, it will be met. Finally, to the extent that the Katrina imposed needs become overwhelming, and our resources turn out to be insufficient, we would in such a case seek support directly from GSO.
In the spirit of our Seventh Tradition, we would like to begin our rebuilding and reconnecting efforts with the resources we presently have. So, from the standpoint of Area 27, we gratefully accept your encouragement, compassion and, of course, prayers. And please understand that this is in no way a negative rejection of any kind and loving offers from any AA group or person outside of Louisiana. Instead, it is our best effort to practice our principals and follow the spiritual guidance of our Higher Power(s) and the AA Traditions. If our situation or needs change, we will promptly let everyone know.
CURRENT SITUATION IN LOUISIANA – GENERALLY
Many people lost their lives, hundreds of thousands lost their homes and other materials things, and over one million people were displaced (and many of us still are). And as for our community of recovering alcoholics, our Steps, Traditions and Three Legacies have been and continue to be tested in ways we never imagined.
Katrina’s winds and storm surge hit hardest in eastern New Orleans, and communities to the east of it, including perhaps the area Katrina pounded the worst, Slidell, LA This is where the Strange Camels Group met, which is the home group of our immediate past U.S. trustee at large, Charlie B. After several levee systems failed, about 80% of the City of New Orleans was flooded with as much as 20 feet of water. Those canal waters later became a toxic soup known to poison rats and other rodents. Thousands upon thousands of homes and other structures soaked in it for days and weeks. Having personally seen and smelled the awful floodwaters, it was unlike anything else I have ever experienced. Multiple failings by local, state and federal officials compounded the problems. After several days of mayhem, the armed services stepped in, and martial law was declared in several parishes (the Louisiana equivalent of counties) that make up the Greater New Orleans Metropolitan Area (GNO). With martial law came dusk-to-dawn curfews, the return of law and order, and the eventual evacuation of almost everyone who lives in most of GNO, with the exception of emergency personnel and public servants. As of now, the City of New Orleans and some of the surrounding areas resemble a near ghost town.
However, as I write this, several parishes have either partially or fully allowed residents to return to their homes to live. Orleans, St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes have begun allowing some (not all) residents back for a quick look and to salvage what they can. Upon returning, most of us found homes with damages ranging from some wind and storm damage to no remaining house or possessions, i.e. an empty lot. And despite initial overtures that the City of New Orleans would be allowing residents to return home this week, those plans proved overly optimistic. Also, the sewage, drinking water and other public works systems have varying degrees of functionality, depending on a host of factors that no one really seems to understand. And of course, Hurricane season doesn’t end until November 30. Despite all of this, things are getting better almost every day.
With an evacuated City, AAs and many still suffering alcoholics left their homes and remain evacuated. Inevitably, many will not return. Even for those who wish to return, as of now, many of their former homes are uninhabitable, and likely what remains of hundreds of thousands of homes and other structures will be demolished. Our alcoholic brothers and sisters are spread to the far reaches of our country and beyond. Many of our poor went to shelters in Louisiana and in other states. In fact, Houston, Austin, Dallas, Detroit, and many other cities have provided our people shelter, and in many instances more permanent homes. The politicians claim that everyone, including our poor and helpless, will return, but overwhelmingly those politicians have some hidden agenda or another. Your guess as to where our people will end up is as good as anyone’s.
CURRENT AA SITUATION
As I write this, I am aware of only a handful of active AA meetings occurring in the GNO. For about the past week or so, we have had noon meetings in Kenner, LA and regularly scheduled meetings at the Solutions Club in Metairie, LA. But we understand that the Solutions Club site still has a really bad stench. The “Ladies Language of the Heart” Group will be meeting in Metairie early Tuesday evenings; and the Jefferson Parish martial law curfew was just changed to midnight to 5:00 a.m.; it was originally dusk until dawn. Thus, we are optimistic that several of our 8:00 p.m. meetings will start back up very soon. Most of our meetings on the West Bank, other than Orleans and Plaquemines Parish meetings, are resumed. And my home group, “Responsibility Group,” had its first post-Katrina meeting last Friday evening in a church parking lot in Metairie, when Ken R., a local doctor, and I were able to meet. In Slidell, the place where the “Strange Camels” met was severely damaged, and the building owner doubts that he will rebuild. The group vows to find a new meeting place very soon. And there is a new Slidell Group called the “Katrina Group.” Depending on the current hurricane in the Gulf, and as more people trickle in, surely there will be more meetings starting, and possibly forming as new meetings to replace or consolidate old ones.
As to the shelters in multiple Louisiana communities where our people ended up, AA meetings have and are occurring, organized and run by local groups, Intergroups and other AAs. For the most part, getting literature into the Louisiana shelters has been less of a problem than finding people who want it. However, there were several early reports of the need for more literature, and those were handled by local AA groups and members.
FUTURE AA NEEDS IN LOUISIANA
Carrying the message to the still suffering alcoholics in Louisiana is both a short and long-range issue. In both instances, putting “feet on the ground” will be the key to effectively carrying the message. Assessing what meetings can and will resume, cleaning up and making repairs to meeting rooms, restoring literature, assisting groups on reconnecting, combining and finding new meeting places if necessary, and a host of other logistical issues, will be some of the primary short term needs. We are working with Red Cross and State Health officials in our ongoing PI, CPC and Treatment efforts. The scope of literature needs in communities where evacuees will end up is uncertain.
As for “rebuilding” or reconnecting AA in the GNO area, those needs are neither immediate (given the great uncertainty on how many will return, and when this will occur) nor known at this time. Surely, though, there will be a need to rebuild and reconnect.
As an AA Area, Area 27 is fully and totally committed to providing the maximum support we are capable of providing to all AA entities in our state. As of this writing, we have what are for us significant resources that are immediately available to be applied to this essential work As the demographics, population distribution and geography of areas that have been severely impacted are unknowns for now (and will be quite fluid for some time) we are not in a position now to reasonably estimate the level or scope of “support” we or other autonomous AA entities may need, financial or otherwise.
LOUISIANA AREA ASSEMBLY’S ANALYSIS OF ISSUE PRESENTED AND WORKING IN THE SOLUTION
As for the groups that make up our Area Assembly, and speaking solely for Area 27, we are respectfully not requesting financial support or contributions, from groups or members outside of our Area, at this time. I note that there may be autonomous AA entities in Louisiana and elsewhere that have a different perspective, but I in no way speak for them.
For Area 27, we express our position and commitment as follows. Our Seventh Tradition wisely guides us to support ourselves with our own voluntary contributions. We do not accumulate funds for unspecified or uncertain needs, and we use our funds strictly toward the end of carrying the message to the alcoholic who still suffers. Our Area Assembly treasury has what we believe to be sufficient resources to provide significant financial support to the groups that we serve. And if we exhaust our funds, we believe that members of AA groups throughout Louisiana will respond consistently with the experience of our wise long-timers and our own experience–if there is a need, it will be met. These are tough, down-and-dirty times for us. And to us these challenges make our Traditions and Three Legacies all the more relevant, not less so.
Of course, the situation and our condition is a fluid one. If our circumstances change to the point that additional assistance is required, we will let you know. And in the first instance, we would address those needs to GSO. More importantly though, for now please relate to your AA members that we are immensely grateful and humbled by the incredible and numerous offers of support. What the Louisiana Area Assembly requests and gratefully accepts now are your kind words of support, compassion, and of course, your prayers.
As for the need for funds, a repeating thought for me has been that our message is most effectively carried one-on-one, where one of us shares a message of experience, strength and hope with another still-suffering alcoholic. I understand that’s how Ebby did it with Bill, Bill and Bob with each other, and so on. Sure, service requires funding, but it is ultimately the recovering alcoholic who actually carries the message.
I will wrap this up with an image from my own AA experience that is permanently burnished in my heart and mind. Through “coincidence,” I ended up tagging along with a group of Alaskan AAs on a carry-the-message trip to the far northeast arctic reaches of what was once the USSR. There is a terrible alcohol problem in that region of Russia – one of the worst in the world. The Alaskan AAs were invited and welcomed to the City of Anadyr by the local government and Red Cross. On the last day of our weeklong trip, we eventually got around to really listening to a fellow who had hung around at several of our PI/introductory type meetings, a Chuchki Eskimo named Vladimir, with weathered skin and a genuine smile. He was there to get some Big Books for his village, “Muk Tuk,” (it means walrus place) which is located on the Artic Ocean. As it turns out, Vladimir heard from the Red Cross that AA members were coming to Anadyr from Alaska, and that they would have Russian AA literature with them. Vladimir had gotten sober three years earlier using the AA steps, which he learned about from the Red Cross. Concerned about the alcohol problem in his village and eager to practice our twelfth step, he decided to travel to Anadyr and wait for the AA folks to show up. Problem is, for people in his village, travel is accomplished by walking over frozen tundra. To get to Anadyr, Vladimir had to walk for five days over the frozen tundra. He had to leave in May, before it thawed out. We came in July. He planned to return when it froze again, probably in September, walking back to Muk Tuk for five days over newly re-frozen Siberian landscape. We gave him a backpack full of Russian language Big Books. I often wonder about Vladimir’s return journey, and whether AA meetings are now occurring in Muk Tuk. I know our program will work for them, as it did for Vladimir and me. Vladimir didn’t need or request a nickel from us – just our Big Books, i.e. our message.
We are about carrying the message. Many of us will go back to what is left of our cities and homes as they are drying out, and some of us will make new homes. We share a common solution, but the solution requires legwork. Katrina never damaged our Steps, Traditions or Three Legacies. They worked fine, are working well now, and we hope to keep putting them to use on the Road to Happy Destiny.
Panel 55/Area 27 (Louisiana)
For the Louisiana Area Assembly