June 29, 2010, Anna Garvey, student at Georgetown Visitation School in Washington, D.C., remembers her week with SBP
"Yeah, Yeah. Okay Dad! Yes, I have my bag! I need to go!" were the last things from my mouth as I slammed the door of my Dad's old car (which magically made me late for anything). The cool air of BWI airport was a great escape from the oven-like temperatures, as I was greeted by the familiar faces of my group and my boarding pass. Landing 50 minutes earlier than expected at the Louis Armstrong International Airport, we were welcomed by spirited airport attendants. On our way over to Saint Bernard Parish, not only did the heat hit us, but so did our surroundings as we passed by the Superdome followed by hundreds of spray painted "X"s.
By the time we arrived at Camp Hope for our first meal, we knew that the week was going to be an adventure. Due to the BP workers staying at Camp Hope, we were bumped over to the Marina Motel. Right by Bayou Bienvenue the Marina Motel, turned out to be quite the humble abode for the week to come! Our alarms came very early Monday morning, but our excitement gave us a little boost out of bed. After we packed our lunches at Camp Hope we headed over to the Saint Bernard Project Office for our very informative orientation where we learned all about the flood and Saint Bernard Project. Shortly after we were shipped out to our houses! While one group headed around the block to work on a house with a fellow Visitation Alumni, Julia Alexander, the other group headed to a house a little further which belonged to Gerry Bierra. As we read his moving bio on the car ride over, we became excited and even a little nervous.
We pulled up to a weathered yet cheerful pink and white home, and on the front porch was Gerry. The best way to describe Gerry would be as Santa Claus. His optimism, smile, and generosity taught us all valuable lessons throughout the 16 hours of paint chipping and power washing under the hot Southern sunshine. On our last day with Gerry he bought us all a huge lunch with his favorite (and now ours) french bread, followed by some of the best snowballs in the world from the ice cream truck. Gerry had touched us all from his inspiring stories, his personality, and even his special beignet recipe! Our next house, belonging to the McLuckey Family, was where we learned how to paint and texture the walls. Even without meeting the McLuckeys we learned so much from them by just working on their house. When we got tired and frustrated towards the end of the week, to keep us going we thought that if these people could go through this much the least we could do is finish painting a wall no matter how hot or tired we were.
We not only learned how to chip paint and texture walls, but we learned about gratitude and how important it is to not take things for granted. After we spent our last night buying Mardi Gras beads and eating beignets from Cafe Du Monde, we came back to DC as 15 different girls than the girls we were a week ago. When my family pulled up to the airport, it struck me how blessed I was, and how important it was for me to never forget about how much can be taken from you so quickly. The most important thing isn't your house, your car, or even your cell phone, it's your family and a smile. Like Gerry said, "You're down but never out."