Experiencing Southern Hospitality

Jonah Thompson

Canadian Armed Forces veteran Gordon Larin reflects on connecting with a East New Orleans resident on Operation Who Dat.

My strike team on Operation Who Dat was assigned several homes in the aftermath of the East New Orleans tornadoes. Our first work order was a massive tarp job on the roof of a residence that served as a daycare. We connected with a friendly southern gentleman named Ray, who doggedly worked to salvage what he could from his daughter’s house. Ray was quite pleased to see the arrival of Team Rubicon. Our team grew to love him in the following three days as he related the plight of his daughter’s narrow escape from the storm.

There were several children in the home when an alert sounded for the imminent tornado strike. Ray’s daughter wisely gathered the kids who were busy wrapping presents for the Mardi Gras parade and took them to safety. Shortly after her departure, the roof from her neighbors home came crashing into the kitchen area where they had been just a few moments before. It caused considerable damage.

Moments later, the fierceness of the winds propelled the roof from her other neighbor into the same area and blew a large hole in the rear of the structure. Some projectiles even traveled through the house knocking out bricks that were part of the front of the house. As Ray described the event, it was easy to see the drama unfold in his words and the emotion in his eyes. He told us he felt it was miraculous that no one had been killed.

We had the honor of seeing Ray for several days as he went about the area helping who he could. He would always stop by his newly adopted friends, our strike team, and share local folklore.  He told us that he felt like he had known us all his life.

The moment we strive for as Team Rubicon volunteers hit me when he turned around at one point and said, “You folks have made my history book for what you have done.” At that moment I realized why I joined Team Rubicon.

I had hoped to experience southern culture on Operation Who Dat, but for me I didn’t experience it during Mardi Gras. I experienced it during that brief moment when a resident allowed me to extend a shoulder to lean on, while he painted the rich local history in his stories.

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