Many Mid-Southerners have relatives or friends in New Orleans and along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. So the outpouring of aid from Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina hasn't been that surprising. But help from residents of Bangor, Maine?
Traveling through Bangor and the coastal area of Maine the last few days, you couldn't help but see the concern for the victims of the worst natural disaster to hit the United States in nearly a century.
Almost every restaurant and retail checkout counter contained a coffee can where patrons could donate to hurricane relief. Some listed how much they had raised for Katrina's victims, and the amounts were not inconsequential.
The proprietor of Fish & Maine on Monhegan Island announced she was donating 25 percent of the restaurant's profits to Hurricane Katrina's victims for the remainder of September. (A sign said the island's residents had raised $1,537 so far.)
“I know you're on vacation, and I don't want you to feel guilty, but Grand Isle, La., is a small fishing village, very much like our own, that was decimated by Hurricane Katrina,” read a sign posted outside the restaurant. “In an attempt to help our neighbors, we are pledging to donate 25 percent….”
Residents in the small town of Hermon just outside Bangor put on a spaghetti supper and donated the proceeds to hurricane relief. Such events were being held all over the state, according to the local media.
Within three days of the hurricane striking the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, rescue squad members from Bangor and the surrounding towns were prepared to travel to the Gulf. Unfortunately, they sat at the Bangor Airport for a week, waiting on instructions from FEMA.
Judging from the national media, Americans from every corner of the nation have been donating money, clothing, water and anything else they could think of for Hurricane Katrina victims.
My daughter-in-law, Pam, and a friend who flew from Atlanta to Houston to help work with evacuees at the Astrodome said the facility was almost overwhelmed with the amount of clothing that came in during the days after victims began arriving there.
Closer to home, churches in Memphis, Little Rock, Jackson, Miss., and small towns all over the region have fed and housed thousands of refugees not to mention the hundreds of private homeowners who have helped. (One of my neighbors in Memphis had 11 friends and 14 pets from New Orleans staying in her home.)
As bad as the damage and loss of life from the hurricane may be, the response of Americans from all walks of life and all areas has been amazing and uplifting.
Footnote: Because of its location in the far northeastern corner, the Bangor Airport is the first stop on U.S. soil for many American servicemen returning from Iraq. It is something to watch Bangor residents shaking hands and handing out free cell phones as soldiers disembark in the terminal.