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First Days in NOLA, Freshman and Senior

Students Bridget Vial and AJ Carter offer initial impressions on Interact's February Break trip.

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I am just an ordinary boy making a huge difference in the world. I am a freshman at Royal Oak High School and the youngest of four brothers. Because I’m a freshman, this is my first year helping with the National Relief Network. After a long eighteen hour bus ride down to Plaquemines, Louisiana, I got off experiencing a whole new world.

The weather is very warm with a cool breeze and I am still trying to adjust from the cold Michigan winter to the warm Louisiana weather. The house I was working on suffered from extreme water damage from Hurricane Isaac. The house was completely wrecked and it was our job to bring it to the ground. We worked to break down drywall, shingles, siding, and lots more.

I had the pleasure of meeting the lovely homeowner of the house we were working on. She was so optimistic, and so thankful for all our help. When I told her I was fifteen years old, she was shocked that a boy my age was taking away his own time to help her. I was honestly moved by her and she made me reflect on my own life and what it must be like to lose it all. When everything you have is taken away, you just have to hang in there and keep pushing forward.

        --AJ Carter, Class of 2018


Today was my first day of relief work in Plaquemines, Louisiana, though not my first time working with the National Relief Network as part of Royal Oak’s “Alternative February Break.” My sophomore year, I attended the trip to Birmingham, Alabama, which had been struck by a series of tornadoes a month before. This time, we are assisting families whose homes were compromised much longer ago.

So as I crab-walked across a decaying roof this afternoon, the physical evidence of how much time has passed since Plaquemines met Hurricane Isaac was alarming. Strips of roofing material pulled easily away. In several places, knotholes of the wood had rotted through completely—almost an equally alarming discovery for whoever’s crowbar sunk suddenly into the attic.

Clearly, our work this week is long overdue. But if the enthusiasm of teenage suburbanites for crowbars and power tools is any indication of our work ethic, I expect we will have much to show for our week in Plaquemines.

       Bridget Vial, Class of 2014

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