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One family adjusts to the trauma of Hurricane Katrina with help from the American Red Cross

September 21, 2005

“Sharing between old and new family”
Front row: Chelsea Lindfors, Russel “Dane”
Lindfors, Lee Twyman (Red Cross DMH)
Back row: Carol Graham (Red Cross DMH),
Jeaneen Lindfors, Margaret Marenghi
(Red Cross assistant shelter manager)
Photo credit: Thomas Jacobson

When Hurricane Katrina roared through Louisiana it destroyed property and disrupted lives. Like many, Jeaneen Lindfors and her family lost their home and all their possessions. The Lindfors family took refuge from Katrina and is living an American Red Cross shelter at the Northshore High school shelter in Slidell, LA. Thanks to the Red Cross and its mental health services the Lindfors have been helped through the trauma of their loss and are facing the future with hope and determination.

“We lived through Katrina in our house in Slidell and it was terrible,” said Lindors (32). “The whole house shook from the wind, the power went out, and the water poured in through the front door. We could hear the trees breaking and loud noises as the power transformers exploded. It sounded just like gunshots.”

“My son Dane (13), baby Chelsea (3 months) and I were sleeping on the couch until the water got too deep. It was nearly knee deep when my step dad came and took us to his place. He was a little higher and didn’t get flooded.”

When the water drained out, the Lindfors family went back to their house. There was no power, and it was so hot that they had to keep the doors and windows open. The flood waters had soaked everything “except Dane’s room, which must have been a little higher than the rest of the house,” she said.

“If it hadn’t been for Tony King, we’d never be here at the shelter at all,” said Lindfors.

“Taking steps down the road of recovery”
Jeaneen Lindfors (l), Chelsea Lindfors (in stroller),
Hansi Bhagwanani, Canadian Red Cross volunteer
Photo credit: Thomas Jacobson.

King was one of the crews on a Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) providing meals and cleanup supplies to the Slidell area from the Red Cross mass feeding operation in Mandeville, LA. ERV crews are often the “eyes and ears” of the Red Cross as they drive their routes. At that time, the Lindfors had been futilely staying at their home for about a week, with nowhere else to go.

King noticed the heat rash and insect bites on little Chelsea and told Lindfors; “You should get that baby out of here. The heat and the bugs, plus the mold and humidity, are going to make it sick. Are you aware that there is a Red Cross shelter set up at the Northshore High School? You and your family should go there. It will be safe and clean, and they will take care of you. It will be a better place to stay than here,” he implored.

The Lindfors family moved to the Red Cross shelter, and there they learned about the range of services that were available to help them through their troubled times. They had a place to stay, clean clothes and regular meals, and 350 new friends. Chelsea received medical attention and is now a happy, healthy baby.

“The Red Cross has never denied us anything, any request that we made, any needs that we have,” smiled Lindfors.

As important as their physical needs are the Lindfors’ emotional needs. Like so many victims of disasters, the Red Cross helped the Lindfors recognize and get on the road to recovery from the emotional aftermath of Katrina.

The Lindfors family faces their future
with hope and help from the American Red Cross.
(l-r) Jeaneen, Chelsea and Dane Lindfors.
Photo credit: Thomas Jacobson.

Carol Graham is a Red Cross volunteer and Disaster Mental Health Services counselor at the Slidell shelter. “I started a conversation with Jeaneen by asking her about her baby,” Graham said. “How is the baby? Do you need anything? Do you notice any change in her behavior, like crying more than usual or wanting to be held more?”

Hurricane Katrina has brought traumatic changes
to the life of 13-year old Dane Lindfors.
He has had to cope with the effects
of the disaster on his home and family,
learning to live in a Red Cross shelter,
as well as adjusting to starting 6th grade
in a new school.
Photo credit: Thomas Jacobson.

These simple questions opened up a long dialogue between Graham and Lindfors. Talking is often the first important step, and Graham was able to help Lindfors and her family work through their emotions.

Graham learned that Dana had reacted to their hurricane losses by being angry and aggressive. He was apprehensive at being uprooted from his home in New Orleans when the family moved to Slidell this summer, and then when they were forced to move to the shelter. Also, Dane was concerned about entering junior high this fall. He was facing a new school, he would be with strangers instead of his New Orleans classmates, and he was going to be one of the “shelter kids” and didn’t know how he would be accepted.

“Since Dane has been here and Carol has been working with him, he has calmed down,” Lindfors said. “He is now his usual cheerful and helpful self. I think he is going to be OK.”

Lindfors also has a healthy, positive outlook on life. She is looking forward to finding a new job and continuing her apprenticeship as a cosmetologist. She is focused on her long-term dream of owning an upscale, upbeat salon that caters to the theater trade and does theatrical makeup as well as hairdos.

“My landlady has a crew cleaning up my house to remove the mold and everything damaged by the hurricane,” she said. “The power should be back on there soon, and eventually we’ll be able to move back in. In the meantime, we have a safe place to stay, and I am very grateful.”

This article was edited and published in the Bridgton News on January 5, 2006.

Last updated January 6, 2006

Copyright © 2005, Allen Crabtree