Evacuees get settled in Columbia - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Evacuees get settled in Columbia

(Columbia) September 8, 2005 -Another group of storm victims came into the Columbia Metro Airport Thursday afternoon.

Ninety-five people were on the flight. In the last two days, about 407 evacuees have been flown into Columbia. Mayor Bob Coble says there will be no more planes with evacuees until September 14th.

After days of just trying to survive, evacuees are finally starting to get a chance to rest comfortably. In Columbia steps are being taken to make that transition as smooth as possible.

After leaving the airport, most of the storm victims go to the USC campus. Relief crews at the old Naval Center Building on the USC campus help evacuees get adjusted. The Resource Center is open from 9:00am until 6:00pm.

Storm victims are getting help with everything from filling prescriptions to stocking up on clothes and food for the days ahead. They also got a map to help get around the Midlands.

As more people come in from the hurricane states, resource volunteers are helping them find housing, get counseling and medical checkups. There are even lawyers and bankers at the reception center to lend a helping hand.

Before arriving, many evacuees had no idea they were coming to Columbia until after their plane took off. Now the Midlands' newest residents are trying to get familiar with their temporary home.

For most, coming to Columbia is a first time experience, and through it's scary, it's much better than what they left behind. Evacuee Aletha Simpson says, "We lived on our front porch for nine days, because it was too hot to go inside."

Evacuee Kris Kent says, "I was glad to be where there was electricity and life, because there's no life in New Orleans right now."

And the stories keep coming. Evacuee Lance Jones says, "I wasn't sleeping in the building. It was nasty; it had urine and feces. I slept on the outside the whole week I was there."

Seventeen year old Lance Jones remembers his last few days in New Orleans. He and his family were among thousands evacuated to the city's Convention Center, "We had to break into stores and try to get food for our families and the elderly people that were out there."

Lance says although his family has lost everything, they are just blessed to be alive and out of the city. His 12 year old brother, mother and grandmother evacuated to the Midlands Wednesday night, "It makes me feel like somebody cares about us, because when we were in New Orleans it seems like nobody cared."

A lot has been thrown Amy William's way since Katrina hit, "I didn't know if I was going to die or if I was going to live. If I didn't leave I knew I would probably end up dying but I couldn't leave my dogs."

Amy, Molly, and Maggie are now staying at a Travelodge in the Midlands,"Some of these people here have just become just like an old friend."

Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina is one of a handful of businesses that have adopted families struck by the hurricane. Donna Thorne speaks for the company, "We're trying to take care of all needs we can to take burden off others because we have corporate resources and the people and everybody wants to help."

At the hotel, Blue Cross provides warm meals, clothing toiletries and medical assistance. Adopting a family, families or, like Blue Cross did, an entire hotel, is what relief workers say Columbia needs more of.

Samuel Tennenbaum of SC Cares explains, "When I say adopt I mean give them moral, spiritual support, come visit, have a barbecue with them, whatever. Maybe bring a book, and say hey let's talk."

It's part of what's helping people like Amy Williams pull through, "My faith in God and then the wonderful people he sends into my life at any given moment to help."

When WIS left the Travelodge more people with pets were checking in. The hotel, which has a no-pet policy, is making the exception to help out.

If you're interested in adopting an evacuee family or group of families, please call 803-401-8847.

Reporting by Jack Kuenzie & Angie Goff

Updated 7:05pm by Kaela Harmon

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