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Sunday, September 11, 2005

Update - Quantam Tour Owner's Story

Greg Kurth of QuantamTour (the owner) created a virtual tour of Gulfport to try to convey how much help is needed for all the victims of Katrina. If you have not been to the area, please view the tour. The place is wiped out and there is desperate need.

I don't know the man and I had never heard of his company, but when I found the tour I linked to it in an earlier post. He left a comment with the story of his trip, how he came to create the tour, and an additional plea for the victims of the storm:
I am Greg Kurth, owner of Quantumtour. I wanted to thank you for posting the link to my site. I hope many people view it and begin to help.

I want to post what I noted while there. I arrived on Saturday evening around 7PM in Gulfport after leaving the Savannah area around 9:30 AM with a minivan loaded with water, food and clothing. The drive was uneventful until I arrived in the Pensacola area and tried to get fuel. Found none available. Was concerned about this problem with a large number of miles still left to cover. I continued into Alabama and again tried to get fuel. Found a fuel stop called "Oasis". They had fuel but were limiting the amount to $25.00 per vehicle. The line was about 20 cars long and was being monitored and controlled by staff. Topped off the tank and headed on the Gulfport.

Once in Gulfport I expected to be stopped from entering "the blast zone" as I call it as it looked like a WWII city that had been bombed for weeks. I hadn't planned on shooting a virtual tour but when i saw how the damage was everywhere I felt the need to create one to show how far reaching the damage was. I shot 2 scenes before it was too dark to get good images. I then returned to the van and began to look for lodging. Drove east on I-10 and stopped at a number of hotels looking for a room for the night. All hotels were full and had no power. Parking lots were full of power company trucks. Then began driving north on Hwy 49 thinking that further inland the damage might be less. This was not the case. As I headed north on 49 in the dark I could tell trees were down and had been cut right at the edge of the lane. In the dark I couldn't tell the extent of the damage. I arrived in Hattiesburg an hour and a half later and began looking for a room. Once in the city I could see many roofs were damaged and there was no power here either. Also all fule stations were closed. I spoke with police and found out the entire state was under a curfew between 7PM and 8AM and there was limited fuel here but the stations wouldnt open intil the morning. When I asked which stations had fuel the officer said you will know by the lines and to get there early to wait. No rooms.

Ended up sleeping on the ground in a closed state park. Trees down everywhere. Spread a blanket and tried to get some shuteye. Slept poorly even with though I was dog tired. Woke about 5:30 and drove back to Hattiesburg for the fuel line wait. At around 7AM the station owner arrived and I noted he was wearing a sidearm in a shoulder holster. He began barking orders at the line and said they would open as soon as staff arrived. An hour later they opened after filling all employees cars first and the line began to move one car at a time being let under a police line tape by a staff member.

Fueled and headed back towards Gulfport. Then I saw the damage an hour inland was still extensive with trees down everywhere and power poles snapped in half. I arrived back near the waterfront and had no problems from the military or police getting in. It semed everyone was either still in shock or the authorities still did not have enough staff to keep people out. There weren't many people there anyway. The town near the waterfront looked deserted with only police, rescue and an occasional military vehicle passing. No looters. There really was nothing left to loot. It seemed that all contents of buildings were laying in the street. The smell of the city was the smell of death. As I walked I kept getting whiffs of decomposure. I shot the rest of the scenes on that day. As the sun got higher the heat became an issue. 3 hours into my walk I realized I had no water with me and felt the effects. At this point I want to point out a realization I had about New Orleans... Those poor people who had been rescued from the flood only to be dropped on a scorching hot freeway overpass must have suffered terribly. It was about 95 degrees and I had occasional shade to get in. they had none.

I was able to obtain a bottle of water from an Army team who had begun cleaning up the debris on the beach. After I shot all the scenes you see in the tour I began walking back towards the van about 4 blocks inland after finding a way thru the blockade of tractor trailers that had washed up against the homes. Houses had been marked with large spray painted Xs. Black for homes with dead in them Orange for homes without. I later found out from rescue teams that the houses were being searched and marked but the dead were not removed a that time. Instead they were marking the locations of dead with a GPS to return to remove the bodies later.

As I began to drive east on what was left of Hwy 90 I had to switch back and forth from one side of the highway to the other to avoid debris. I saw driveways off Hwy 90 that used to lead to homes that had survived numerous storms over the years including Camile. The were all gone. Small piles of bricks were all that remained. Even foundations were ripped up and broken into large chunks.

Keep in mind that 2 to 3 blocks inland there was a wall of debris consisting of cars, and pieces of homes that had to be navigated thru to get access to the inland areas. As I drove down Hwy 90 I was stopped by 2 Texas Sheriffs on horseback who informed me that I had to leave the area. They had just arrived and seemed to be clearing the area.

I found a way to get thru the debris blockade and began looking for residents who might need the meager supplies I had brought. I found a housing area and entered it weaving thru all the downed trees. As I approached homes and knocked on doors many people told me they had what they needed but pointed out homes of neighbors who did not. I gave supplies to those who needed them. At one home I told a lady that I was there from Georgia and brought supplies. I habded her 2 cases of water and a smallbox of food and I saw her eyes tear up. She began to cry and as I walked away I did too.

In closing I would like to say to everyone. This is the worst catastrophe I have ever seen and I want people to keep in mind the next one could be your city. Please do anything you can to help.

I have posted links on http://www.quantumtour.com (scroll down) that will accept donations and you can volunteer services too.
Please, please use them.
Greg Kurth
A&G Productions LLC
Quantum Tour
There is no way that governments or even the organized charities can do it all. Just no way. Everyone has to pick up on this one.

You are so right Maxed Out Mama. I've been there, to the gulf states. I saw it with my own eyes...the government can not do it all. Not locally, via the state or by the Feds. We ALL MUST do something.

On another note, when I heard via my husband boomr and his family were safe, I was relieved. When I returned and heard and read about your trip, I was ....well...I don't even know boomr, but I saw too many 'boomr's' in NOLA and to know people like you became true Americans and took action in the face of this disaster - it refuels my hopes, and I'm sure it refuels many other's hopes. Well Done Lady!
Cyli, that's absolutely right. I think most people know what you are saying. There has been an incredible groundswell of effort across all 50 states to try and pitch in.

This is what Americans are like. I am not a particularly impressive specimen, but most Americans are generous and try to help when they can.

Boomr and his family survived, but the extended family lost all their homes, cars and jobs, at least for the time being. There are so many Boomr-stories, and they will all need help in reestablishing their lives.

I am disgusted by those (often conservative, I think) who are complaining about FEMA giving out debit cards. The only way to get people out of shelters is to get them on their feet, in apartments or other livable spaces, and find them jobs. The only way for that to happen is for the government to stretch and for all of us to do the same.

I must say one thing. People of good will from all backgrounds and of all political bents are certainly distinguishing themselves from the political animals who really don't care. It shows. In the end, this will result in an American renewal. It is such a huge tragedy that there is no other way for us to go forward.
What an amazing tour of the area. Thanks so much for posting that.
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