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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005, 20:30 GMT 21:30 UK
Help in Houston: A volunteer's story
Langdon King (pic courtesy of Langdon King)
Langdon has taken several days off work to help those affected
Up to 20,000 people fleeing the devastation in New Orleans have arrived in the Texan city of Houston to be housed in the Astrodome sports centre.

Langdon King is a 27-year-old IT consultant who lives in Houston. After seeing the horrific images of devastation on Wednesday, he and his wife decided to help.

On Wednesday night my wife and I saw the news that they were bussing in people from New Orleans to the Astrodome in Houston.

We live about five minutes away and so we drove down. As soon as we got there we saw the buses.

We offered help but they said no. We saw police pushing people back, so we left.

Thousands have taken refuge inside Houston's Astrodome

The next day we went through a local church which was co-ordinating volunteer efforts.

As soon as we got into the Dome, all we could see were rows and rows of cots. It was overwhelming to see so many people.

We went to a registration booth to sign up; they gave us an orange wristband to distinguish us from everyone else.

Then we got to work registering everyone else, making sure people had cots, filling out Red Cross forms and seeing if they needed medical attention, telling them where they could get a shower, hot food or clothes.

Some of the elderly women couldn't get up to the fourth floor to get food so we helped them.

Helping the needy

At one point I saw an elderly lady struggling to walk. I could tell she was having problems so I asked her if she needed help.

I was just watching the news, I really didn't know I'd be involved. I just felt a burning need to do something

I got her to a cot and she said she wanted to find her relatives in Houston. I called directory enquiries and managed leave a message for her cousin.

This woman had just had brain surgery, she was barefoot, her feet were covered in mud. She had had to walk through water for miles to get help.

Five hours later her cousin called back and I wheeled her up the ramps so she could reach her cousin.

We tried helping all we could. There were many people suffering from severe dehydration, people on oxygen, many people with prescription needs such as diabetics needing insulin.

Yesterday I saw a lady with all her kids sitting down wearing new clothes.

I asked if she has gone shopping and she said: "Yes I went to the store down the road and bought the kids new things. I hate it when they call us poor refugees."

Fighting for supplies

Many spoke of the unsanitary conditions of the Superdome in New Orleans. There was no air conditioning, it smelled, there was no food or water and families had to stick together to keep safe.

Mother sleeps with her young baby in Astrodome, Houston, Texas
Many in Houston have offered help to those caught up in the disaster
This is less of a problem in the Astrodome as there are police everywhere and everyone was searched for weapons.

Two people were arrested for fighting over a cot. And in the line of people trying to get donated clothes some have been pushy - large older men grabbing T-shirts off pregnant mothers.

We had some feminine hygiene products and underwear and all these women were screaming for it.

I can understand people being desperate. They were filthy, they hadn't showered in days.

The kids seem happier, they are smiling, some throwing around American footballs.

Colouring books have become a big thing, as well as toys and board games. I've seen whole families sitting around playing on them.

Community support

I went out around 9pm on Thursday to eat and come back and saw on my way in hundreds of volunteers pouring in - the mayor of Houston had sent out a call asking for people to come and bring clothes and supplies.

When I finally left around 3am the line of cars full of people was extraordinary.

We were so overwhelmed with donations, people started setting up tents around the Dome and handing out clothes.

I saw a Houston family offer another family a place to say, a high school baseball team organised to have 50 people. In one house they ended up with 19 kids! The whole community has been trying to help.

I was just watching the news, I really didn't know I'd be involved. I just felt a burning need to do something.

Even though I'm only interacting with a small portion of people, I can still help. If I can make one person better off then it's worth it.

How one Texas family has thrown survivors a lifeline


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