By Mark H. Hunter, Regional Reporter
BATON ROUGE – As soon as thousands of evacuees began flooding into Baton Rouge, hundreds of LSU students stepped up to help including Joshua Timothy, then the senior resident assistant in Kirby Smith (all male) Dorm, who now works as a youth pastor.
“It was probably some of the craziest moments of my life,” said Timothy, who was a 20-year-old junior at the time. “I’m not gonna lie to anybody – I was scared to death.”
Some of his residents were from the flooded areas of New Orleans including one who saw his family on the national news sitting on their roof waiting to be rescued, he said.
One of his RAs was from Slidell and when they drove there to find his father, “there was no power – it was so dark you couldn’t see past the truck’s headlight beams,” Timothy said. “We found his dad – he was hiding in a freezer – a tree had fallen on their house.
“When we pulled into the driveway people actually started walking toward us from their homes asking if we were there to help,” Timothy said. “We put as many as we could in my truck – including some who were insulin-dependent and needed to be brought back so they could get to a hospital.”
Upon their return, they found the LSU campus, especially the track at Bernie Moore Stadium, had been transformed into a landing zone for the helicopters and the Pete Maravich basketball arena had been turned into a makeshift MASH unit and morgue.
Black Hawk helicopters flew over the dorm day and night bringing in the elderly, the sick and the dying while buses from New Orleans arrived with other survivors said Timothy.
“The Black Hawks were carrying in victims who were stranded on roofs. Buses began to arrive from New Orleans with many other survivors. I will never forget the sound of those helicopters constantly flying over the campus and landing at the track,” he said. “Now, I know what it would sound like in a war zone.”
Without hesitation, Timothy and the staff from Kirby joined other LSU students helping to unload those helicopters and transport them into the P-MAC where the clinic had been set up.
“We worked for hours helping get people off the helicopters,” he said. “Many were dazed, exhausted and in bad shape from the ordeal. A lot made it but some didn’t. For those who didn’t, all we
could do was to say a quick prayer for them and get back to work. It wasn’t easy for any of us.”
Later, after doing all they could at the landing site, they turned their attention to the Baton Rouge River Center which had become a massive and over-crowded refugee shelter.
“There were so many people who wanted just to talk to someone,” he said. “It was very emotional hearing people tell stories of seeing water coming through their doors and climbing into their attics and cutting holes in the roof – not seeing any of their stuff again. That was the sad part.
“We witnessed to people. I don’t know if anybody was saved – but we planted lots of seeds,” Timothy said. “That was the story – you’ve gotta have faith. In dark times you have to walk by faith and not by sight.”
The best part of the experience, he said, “was to see our guys come together – a group of guys who stood up and said we want to make things better and help these people.”
The worst part, he said, was working at the Baton Rouge River Center and passing through security checkpoints manned by armed military and police officers.
“People wanted out and people wanted in,” Timothy said. “To me that was scary – soldiers were armed in riot gear – emotions were running high.”
But being able to talk to people and help them is what God called him to do, he said. “That is why I continue do the things I do in the ministry. God calls me to get up and help people each morning.”
BCM at LSU students pitched in
More than 300 BCM students at LSU participated in Katrina response ministries of some kind, according to a report by LSU BCM Director Steve Masters, as documented in a October 2005 message to the Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge.
Over 2,000 LSU students volunteered in a variety of ways.
Masters and his family rode out the hurricane inside the BCM building on the campus and two days later began helping people. Here is a short excerpt from his report:
WEDNESDAY – A man came up to me and asked if I was Lindsay’s dad. I said yes and he said she helped him and his three year-old son a lot when they arrived, and I should be proud of her. This was at 7 p.m. At 5 a.m. the next morning I was looking for Lindsay to take her home. She was holding the three-year-old boy. On the way back to the BCM, Lindsay told me the man, his wife, his mother-in-law, and the boy had to cut a hole in their attic to escape the water. A helicopter came to rescue them. Only two could go so the mom and dad wanted the baby and mother-in-law to go. The helicopter rescuer said it had to be a parent if a child was involved so the mom had the dad go with the boy so she could stay with her mom. That is what they did and now they cannot find the mom or the mother-in-law.”
Masters said, for this story, as far as they know they never did find the mother or mother-in-law.
“The college students did a tremendous job for two weeks – they didn’t have classes but the did chainsaw work, they volunteered at the triage area and other areas,” Masters said. “Hurricane Katrina made me proud to be a Southern Baptist.
“We saw the networking of Southern Baptists from all over the country flood southern Louisiana with volunteers, with food, with services, it was great to see the support,” Masters said. “We have one of the best disaster relief systems in the world and it was evident during Katrina.”
And for the future? “We need to continue to network and work together so when something happens we’ll be ready,” Masters said.