Diary of a Field Worker

New Orleans, LA – Hurricane Ida 2021

The residents of Louisiana are struggling to rebuild after hurricane Ida, a category 4 storm with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour. On Aug. 29, 2021, on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Ida left more than 1 million residents without power. After the second most devastating hurricane after Katrina, I was requested to assist ICNA Relief Disaster Relief Services team in Louisiana.  Upon my arrival, a few miles from the airport, I witnessed and was shocked at the amount of the destruction.  

The first thing I saw was a gas station in the middle of a busy intersection without a roof.  As I continued my trip to Baton Rouge, where the ICNA Relief Disaster Relief Services team was stationed, I saw trees on homes and on streets blocking traffic. I saw pieces of lumbar from fences and siding and trash everywhere.  Families were still in shock from seeing their homes reduced to rubble.  The amount of destruction caused in a matter of a few days…one cannot fathom.  I thought to myself, “Alhamdulillah, I have no right to complain.” 

After 6 days, I was more mentally exhausted than physically.  Hearing the stories from homeowners and seeing entire neighborhoods collapsed hits you in a different way.  

Alhamdulillah, we received the honor to help out a Muslim sister whose house was completely demolished by a single tree. She was asleep with her son as 150 mph winds uprooted a tree and crashed down on top of them. Mother and son were found in their bathroom as both floors sandwiched her bedroom. Later we learned that she did not have insurance.  She, like many more people in the same boat, had no place to stay and no way to rebuild.  

Wherever we went, there was someone that needed immediate assistance.  Though having safety protocols in place and assessing job sites prior to scheduling, there were still some families that would see us working and ask for assistance.  We would oblige as much as possible because we want to show them what Islam is about: helping neighbors and serving community.  

This one act of kindness went a long way.  A team member I was with didn’t have cash to purchase his food at a convenient store.  The gentleman behind him saw his ICNA Relief vest and paid for all his food because, “you were there when I needed you so I want to give back.”  

Helping after a disaster may be daunting and you may be thinking, “I don’t have an experience in disaster relief.” But you don’t need experience in helping people when they are down.  And that is what we did.  We helped them to stand up again. 

In addition to removing fallen trees and debris from homes, we had food distributions and health fairs as well.  Hundreds of people came to get food and medicine as grocery stores, doctor offices and pharmacies were closed.  No one should go without the essentials and Alhamdulillah ICNA Relief was there to provide the necessities to survive. 

All the members of the DRS team had a passion in them to help rebuild communities.  After speaking with various masjids, we received amazing support; many came out to volunteer. We had a group from Texas about 18 people strong. Local teenagers also wanted to volunteer so much that they didn’t want to leave the job sites!  The DRS team and volunteers helped because of a shared goal: to help those in need when they needed it. It is truly a life changing experience.