I woke up knowing this was my last work day--the last time I would go to the Flagler office. Normally people go through outprocessing and that's it for the day. But by this time Diane (my supervisor) and I were the only MH people left. Mary got deployed to Broward County, Marieanna went home, and I already mentioned that Marcia and Tracy were gone.
So I thought I'd be in the office helping Diane debrief people during outprocessing. Instead she asked if I'd rather go out with my team one more time. You betcha I would!
I went through outprocessing very quickly and joined Bill and Fred in Fred's car. Again we were in the same section of town and Luis was with us part of the time. A guy named Frank went too, he transferred from another team. Because things were starting to wind down, they began combining teams as people left.
We went to a city shelter and it looked as bad as some of the damaged homes we'd been to. While we were standing in the parking lot waiting for a client, an elderly gentleman walked up and began talking to me. He said he'd volunteered with the Red Cross during the Mississippi Flood of '93. I thanked him and said my home town was on the Mississippi and had been affected by the flood. He asked where I was from and I said Quincy Illinois.
His face lit up. He said, "That's where I was deployed." Then my face lit up. He began talking about his experience and also mentioned some small towns near Quincy. His name is Ernie and he absolutely made my day. I'm so grateful I went out in the field on my last day.
In retrospect I wish I'd asked him why he's in the shelter now. He was returning from church and was dressed up for that--but to be in that shelter must mean his home was destroyed or badly damaged. At the time, I was just concerned with folks on my list. My hope is that someone showed him as much compassion as he showed the folks in Quincy Illinois in 1993.
There's so much more I can write about--Diane, clients, missed lunch again, Eric, and many more. Perhaps I'll write about them on another day.
I told Bill I'd meet him for a final beer at the pool bar. When I arrived he was there talking to Pam. She's an interesting character. She's leaving for Thailand soon with the Peace Corps. She'd been in the Phillipines for three years, came home, worked with Katrina and Wilma, and will be heading off again. I certainly admire her.
Bill bought me a Heineken and I can't believe I didn't reciprocate. What a dolt I am sometimes! All wrapped up in my own emotions at leaving.
Others joined us--Fred, Diane, Eric and more. I enjoyed my last time at the pool bar.
It was bittersweet saying good-bye. Maybe I'll be deployed again with some of these folks, but never again will we all be together in this unique combination of talents and energy. This mixture--changing daily because of the ebb and flow of deployement. This looking at the sunrise over the ocean and the sunset behind us. This laughing, crying, complaining, courageous bunch of heroes--making a difference in their own way. I'll miss them. Yep. I will.