Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Teamsters standing united: Mississippi rebuilds after storm

Bricks recovered from Teamster member Terry Bang's home,
destroyed in the hurricane, at IBT headquaters
With this week marking the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Teamster Nation continues its look back at the disaster and the aftermath, focusing on the unprecedented role played by Teamsters in the recovery. In today's story, we recount the experiences of two Teamsters who lost their homes to the storm. 

Often overshadowed by the flood in New Orleans, few remember that Hurricane Katrina veered east at the last minute and roared onshore at the Louisiana-Mississippi state line, making the Mississippi coastline ground zero.

When the waves and storm surge hit on August 29, the power of the water wiped out entire structures in the areas of Biloxi and Gulfport, demolishing buildings and homes for miles on end. Further inland, catastrophic flooding, spawn tornadoes and wind damage ravaged even more Mississippi residents.

For Local 891 member and former shop steward Terry Bang, the tenth anniversary of Katrina marks a decade since losing his home to one of those spawn tornados. As the majority of Bang’s home was blown away by a fierce funnel of wind accompanying Katrina, he, his wife, Michele, and their two college-age children huddled in the downstairs bathroom praying for their lives.

After the storm, Bang and his wife spent more than 18 months living in a 29 x 8-foot trailer parked in the driveway that FEMA provided.

Bang and his family
Bang is deeply grateful to all the help from Local 891 in the wake of the hurricane. He said members of the union found a way to contact him after the storm and bring supplies soon afterwards, which he claims made all the difference between moving forward and just surviving:
They were right there for us, making sure we had everything we needed. We have become an even tighter knit group since the storm. As a steward, it was also great to see new drivers being hired and trained to help with the workload. We all came together, as a union -- brother helping brother against the ills of life.
Mauffray with two crosses
For Bang’s coworker and fellow union member Bobby Mauffray -- along with his wife, Marla -- the storm took almost everything when their home was washed away by the 25-foot wall of storm surge. The only possessions the Mauffray’s have are the items they threw in the back of the truck on the way to Georgia -- that and 11 of the 12 pieces of their wedding china, plus two crystal crosses marking the birth of their children found in their lawn, sitting perfectly intact near where the door had been as if they were “waiting to be put away”:
All the way home I had a knot in my stomach. But once you see it the fear recedes. You start thinking about what you need to do first. You never know what to take when you rush out, what you might miss later. I’m not one to be attached to material things, but I was glad we thought to take some pictures with us. When I was going through the wreckage I found the tape of my four year-old daughter’s ultra sound. It was filled with muddy water. That really upset me.
Following the storm, Mauffray and Bang returned to work at UPS, driving routes that were unrecognizable due to the massive devastation. Both men say they were lucky to still have a job and grateful for the quick response from their fellow Teamster members.

As a show of his appreciation, Bang recovered bricks from his old home and signed “thank you” notes to those who helped, including Local 891 President W.C. Smith and Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa, which Hoffa still keeps in his office at IBT headquarters in Washington D.C.