Monday, September 05, 2005

9/5/05 Hurricane Katrina and Project Jason

I recieved a letter today asking what involvement Project Jason will have with Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath, in relation to missing persons. The writer said she was sure that I had something in the works to help.

She knows I am an "idea" person. I always have so many ideas in my head about our cause and what we do that I sometimes I have to tell my innerself: "Be quiet in there!"

This situation, however, is different. I have no training in a disaster situation. The people who do will have to be the idea makers. '

This email made me stop and think about where Project Jason falls into disaster aid. This is what I wrote in response to her inquiry:

Dear XXX,

I appreciate the vote of confidence in us.

Unfortunately, the realities of the situation for us are as such:

We are not a SAR (Search & Rescue) organization and are not trained in these matters. (Someday we will be able to do this.) All of our board members and volunteers work full time jobs and do not have the ability to take off work at will. I would not expect any of them to use their personal vacation time for Project Jason work. Project Jason also does not have the funding to pay someone to go to the disaster area, and, as mentioned, no one is trained for this scenario. We should and will leave it in the capable hands of the professionals.

As to things we can do here, we have posted links to resources for victims, donation centers, and listed entities for missing/separated persons on both this blog and our forum. Should anyone who is a victim of Katrina contact us, we will provide these resources and ensure that they are in touch with the proper authorities based upon their situation. We would, as we do for all families of the missing, offer the same level of support, whether it be a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to listen.

We could create some place for families/individuals to post their whereabouts or requests to find missing family members, but the proliferation of such sites is actually compounding the problem rather than helping. With hundreds of such sites now in place and countless more coming, finding someone in this scenario now becomes like a needle in a million haystacks, rather than just one. If some family member posts on a particular site, and it is not one of the main ones, it could take all that much longer for their whereabouts to be known. That person posting may have the impression that the site they are posting on suffices. Another family member may be seeking someone who has listed themselves as safe, but the other family member does not find that particular site.

This will be a lesson learned if we should ever have something like this happen again: have certain sites designated as official from the start and ensure all field personnel are aware of these sites so they can communicate this to the victims.

I am also thinking of all the people who continue to become missing each and everyday that have nothing to do with Katrina. With all of the focus on that and the great resources being expended, who will pay heed to the others missing? We need to ensure that their needs are being attended to as well. (I am not suggesting that our peers will ignore them.) I have already had a couple of families hold off on planned press releases. I advised them to wait and see how things go in the news because at this point, it is unlikely they will get any coverage. They still want to find their missing loved one. Katrina did not change any facts in their life, nor the status of their missing loved one.

I myself had a press event this weekend with the Race for the Missing. (discussed in my last blog entry) There was no media coverage at either the Sunday or the Monday night event for Jason, even though the press release was sent national from RFTM and locally by me. I did not expect the media to come, given the circumstances. We did our best to create awareness among the people present at the racetrack(s). We made due with what we had. Jason was not forgotten by RFTM. They went on and raced with his photo displayed on the hood of the car.

Life goes on. Other people continue to go missing. Their families contact us, asking for our assistance on a daily basis. We will continue to provide the same level of assistance to them post-Katrina.

Perhaps that is our role in all of this.

Thank you for making me think harder about this and come to these conclusions. I have many stories of the missing waiting to be written, so I shall return to that this week.

Many blessings,


Anonymous Kathleen said...

Kelly, I felt a sense of relief with your response. I am one of those who is not directly effected by Katrina and my father is still missing. My heart goes out to the Katrina victims and I have taken a small part to help by donating money. That is the best I can do right now, as my time is taken with efforts to find my father. I look at the TV and cry for them. I cannot imagine the loss, just as I could've never imagined the loss of my father. I am one of those who is waiting to put out a PR and have had to stop my efforts of getting a SAR team to search for him, as they are all focused on Katrina victims. I just wish I had started 8 months ago, before Natalee and Katrina, but I didn't think of it - I didn't even know there were people who did this voluntarily. Thank you for pushing for the missing.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Kelly Jolkowski said...

The rest of us should not feel guilty in that our emotions about our missing loved ones are not erased because of the tragedy of Katrina. I pray that for those missing, their wait will not be a long one.


4:53 PM  

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