"A crowbar is essential for gutting a flood-ravaged home. First you rip off the front door. Next you break out the windows. Then, as quickly as possible, you shovel all contents into wheelbarrows and get them out of the house.
Once your task is done, usually in a day or two, you are left with a structure that has been stripped down to its roof, studs and exterior façade. Four impressive piles - one for general debris, one for hazardous waste, one for electronics and one for salvaged personal possessions - cover the front lawn. The house will seem tiny by comparison.
Along with my wife, Mickie, and several hundred other volunteers, I recently spent two weeks gutting houses in St. Bernard Parish, southeast of New Orleans. Every morning, after awaking in our tent-camp cots, we would don overalls, steel-toed boots, masks, gloves and hard hats and tear apart some of the 150,000 homes that Hurricane Katrina submerged in and around New Orleans.
It was humbling and exhausting work. At times, we wondered why any of us would spend a vacation exposed to mold, snakes and the contents of kitchens left abandoned for months.
Yet even in moments of doubt, we would see college students arriving by the hundreds, spending their spring breaks doing this odd form of relief work. We saw leaders of Habitat for Humanity, AmeriCorps and other groups toiling 16 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to bring coherence to a seat-of-the-pants operation."
Read more of Stuart Leavenworth experience with the St Bernard Recovery Project by copying and pasting this link on your browser http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/story/14235196p-15056547c.html