After three weeks in the flooded regions in and around Baton Rouge, local resident Jeremy Specht returned home to a deeper appreciation of his everyday life.
Specht and his wife Andrea had just purchased a self-contained camper in order to help with disaster relief, but they still didn’t feel prepared, according to Specht. “We had to decontaminate equipment every day because of the mold. We didn’t want to come back with health problems,” like the people he saw who had boils just from being in the unclean water. “It’s not just rain water,” Specht pointed out.
Cleanliness was paramount for the more than 700 volunteers who gutted 176 of the 220 houses damaged. Most homeowners lost everything including the possibility of insurance. Not only did most residents of the area not have flood insurance because they were not in a flood plain, but Specht witnessed the disappearance of items from in front of the houses. “Cars would be hauled away in the night,” as well as appliances, according to Specht. “I actually saw signs that said ‘You loot, we’ll shoot’ because if it wasn’t there when the insurance adjuster came, they couldn’t prove that they owned it.”
The couple was drawn to help with the flood relief so soon after returning from New York where they had helped move a church from Brooklynn to upstate because she had family in the area. They helped gut the house of her uncle, Chuck Germond, who then put them in touch with his church and other groups who were in position to help with the more than 82,000 people who had applied to Federal Emergency Management Agency for aid. Just before returning home, Germond received his aid check from FEMA for less than $30, Specht said.
In spite of the devastation that came along with what was called “a 1,000-year flood,” Specht and his wife found hope in the people of Baton Rouge. “We were working side-by-side with people who were trying to (clean up) by themselves. One woman was over 90 years old and working without personal protection or a respirator,” Specht said in worry. “To see how people who had lost everything, but were so happy to see us helped us re-evaluate our lives. They lost things, but they still had their life. As the Bible says, things don’t last.”
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.