September 13, 2005

Good Samaritans are one of the bright lights in the stories about Hurricane Katrina survivors. Folks from all walks of life risked their lives, opened their homes and gave all they could to help people threatened by loss and tragedy. In Dallas, Texas, Tracey Lightner and her family were so moved by the plight of the men, women and children housed in Dallas Convention that they spent hours, then days, helping wherever they could. This is the first part of one volunteer’s view.

I prayed all the while Hurricane Katrina plowed down on the Gulf Coast. I am originally from Corpus Christi, Texas, which is in the Gulf, and know far too well the urgency of preparation for a storm.

My mother, Bessie, and sister Patrice, along with my two daughters and nephew, left work on (Sept 2) and purchased clothes, towels, dippers as well as other essentials. We said a prayer and drove to the Dallas Convention Center where, once there, the overwhelming need for help was apparent. We just could not leave.

As the buses began to arrive, the terror and anguish on the faces of our people was devastating. We wanted to give all that we had! Though the news media said that donations were not needed, if it had not been for people like my family, the victims of Katrina would not have received an immediate change of clothes and other necessities. Some women told me that they had to sit without sanitary napkins for the entire time.

I volunteered all of Labor Day weekend at Reunion Arena and the Dallas Convention Center. Once there, I wanted to help feed people or just do whatever was needed. The overwhelming need of my brothers and sisters would not let me leave. We ended up staying from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. the following morning. And we were there every day after.

As we were about to leave early Saturday morning, I noticed some people going through a bag of clothes. I had purchased toiletries such as lotion, shampoo, soap, etc. and I thought I would offer some to them. They accepted and I inquired further about their situation. They told me they had found shelter, then they mentioned a young man standing by himself in the nearby parking lot. Thomas was 16 years old and all alone. No mother or father. He had no one. My family talked with him and decided we just could not leave him alone to fend for himself.

My sister and I took him to the convention center and asked to speak with the head of the Red Cross. I informed the Red Cross shelter manager of the situation and he immediately contacted Child Protective Services. We were asked to provide our identification so that background checks could be run. Some time later that day the young man was released into our custody, and we took him into our home.

Thomas had been living with a friend in New Orleans when the hurricane hit. They both lost everything.

Update from Lightner: We were able to confirm that Thomas’ mother is in the military and she is stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. Unfortunately, we have been unable to communicate with her just yet because she may have been deployed to the disaster area.

This is the first part of a Good Samaritan’s story.Tomorrow: Felicia’s Miracle.

Tracy Lightner is a single mother with two daughters. The graduate of Dallas Baptist University has been without full-time permanent employment since she was laid off in 2003.

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