Burners Without Borders – Report from the Field

[This dispatch reported by Boy Scout.]
Biloxi, Mississippi

Project Update

For the past week, the Temple Crew has been clearing out lots full of debris and cranking really hard to get the temple walls done.

We’ve finally got some professionals to mud and tape the walls so that they are smooth. A few volunteers put a lot of hours into mudding the walls but it really takes a pro to make the holes and seams disappear. When the mud finally dried, the Temple Crew lucked out when a volunteer professional painter, John, showed up with all the right equipment. He ran his sprayer day and night until it finally quit working. The rest of us were charged with taping down everything and rolling a final coat to get the coverage perfect. We also put more insulation up into the attic and we got the final materials list together: doors, trim, and bathroom appliances.

In addition to the work in the temple, we’ve been clearing out lot after lot of debris. Water Street is a big project with four lots piled 4-5 feet high. The excavator makes quick work of crunching homes into toothpicks, and filling up the bucket of the loader. The loader has been a giant wheel barrow, forming load after load into long giant mounds along the street so that the contractors can take it out to who knows where. I’ve had lots of time driving the loader. It’s gotten to the point that it’s now a bit boring driving up and down the driveways.

Thanksgiving

Last Thursday was the strangest Thanksgiving Day I’ve ever experienced. Salvation Army and many church groups competed to feed many thousands of meals to the public here. On Wednesday evening a Ryder truck full of turkeys and chickens pulled into the camp. We loaded up our pickup trucks, and drove into the surrounding community. Folks came out of their tents and trailers when they heard us shouting. Several hundred turkeys and chickens were distributed very quickly to eager families in the neighborhood.

On Thursday we had four cooks, Cowboy, Michelle, Eli, and Angelina, make us the most splendid of meals. When we had all stuffed ourselves silly with turkey and were eyeing the pies, another truck surprised us by pulling into the temple with hundreds of meals and pies they needed to give away. They brought a couple of vanloads of kids and adults to convince passersby to take the meals. So we set up tables on the street, and stopped traffic for four hours until everything but a case of apple pies was gone. Luckily, the Vietnamese Catholic church next door had services right after they arrived, so we had more than the usual amount of cars passing by. Michelle had received a bag of 30 donated kazoos to bring down here, and the kids had fun making lots of noise with them.

I’ve been updating a photo blog with photos taken of the town and temple crew.

Temple Crew Mission Update

Volunteers are still needed. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve had a high turnover in volunteers helping with the Temple Crew’s mission. Some only stay for a couple of days, or up to a week or two. Many of the long term folks who have been here for 8-10 weeks are burning out. The environmental conditions are not extreme, but the physical and mental conditions demand much beyond what any of us do in ‘real life’. Just as getting used the playa takes a few days, coming into this devastated community puts most people into shock.

PLEASE VOLUNTEER to help with this monumental task of helping this community cope with the loss of everything they left behind when they evacuated. We’ve got the space for many more folks and you don’t have to worry about HOT food, a warm shower, or even a ride from the Gulfport airport. The weather is coastal with warm days in the low 70s and cool nights that may go down into the mid 30s. If you want to volunteer, please call Richard at xxxxxxx.

Some of the crew have been seeking out folks who are even more needy than this community. They found Plaquemines Parish, LA (google maps) which is estimated at 7 to 8 weeks behind even Biloxi. Folks are returning to find no power, no lights, no water, and no phone, no nothing left. We want to get them food, water, tents, blankets, and other necessities.

About the author: Tom Price

Tom Price is the former Executive Director of Black Rock Solar. Prior to that he was the Environmental Manager for Burning Man during the Green Man theme, and was in the Gulf Coast for six months during the genesis of Burners Without Borders. He's been attending Burning Man since 1997, and he's proud to say that his decade plus streak of breaking down from sun stroke on the playa on day three remains intact.