Generous Orthodoxy  

Monday, September 19, 2005

"Dishonest Stewards" from Duke University

A few days ago I posted a Rumination lamenting the apparent absence of Christian witnesses who would go voluntarily into the hellish conditions in New Orleans to share the misery. Today I found an example. Perhaps these young men are not even Christians, but they surely acted in a Christlike way. Moreover, their resourcefulness and determination verging on dishonesty (!) is highly reminiscent of Jesus' parable of the dishonest steward! Here is the article, by Ian Urbina from the New York Times daily feature called "Voices From the Storm":

Watching the horror unfold on live television, David Hankla and his friends at Duke University felt angry and bewildered. "It made no sense whatsoever that reporters were getting in and out of New Orleans, but the National Guard couldn't remove those people from the convention center," said Mr. Hankla, 20, a sophomore. "All we knew was that we were sick of being armchair humanitarians and that we intended to help get people out."

So he and two dorm mates, Sonny Byrd and Hans Buder, set out in Mr. Byrd's Hyundai sedan for a road trip and rescue mission.

But heading into New Orleans on Interstate 10 after the all-night drive from Durham, N.C., they were turned back by National Guard troops who said it was not safe to proceed. "We tried a couple ways in, but they sent us back at each," Mr. Hankla said. Demoralized and exhausted, they retreated to Baton Rouge, La., where after a few hours of sleep, they began working at a Red Cross shelter.

That afternoon, the three devised a plan to sneak into New Orleans. Visiting a nearby television station, one of them swiped a press pass, which Mr. Hankla altered and duplicated at Kinko's. "For $11.68 and an hour of work, we became members of the media," he said. "We didn't even have to roll down our windows to get into the city this time."

At the convention center, Mr. Hankla said he waded through a smell so bad "it could knock you down."

"A woman out front said that she was leaving the shelter because she heard screams from a woman being raped in the bathroom," he said. "Inside, a guard told me that the smell was from bodies stacked on the second floor."

Soon, he said, he came across a man named Jessie with white welts covering his body and face. The man told him that when the floodwaters had come, he had climbed a tree that was swarming with fire ants. Because he could not swim, the man said, he was stuck in the tree and bitten by ants for 18 hours.

The students drove him to a Baton Rouge hospital, along with three women whom they dropped at an emergency center. They then made a return trip for the women's husbands.

Worried that their luck with fake press credentials was wearing out, they began their long drive back to Duke.

"We felt pretty satisfied that we got involved," Mr. Hankla said. "But we all kept talking about how it was possible that three kids in a two-wheel-drive Hyundai were able to move people out of the city and the National Guard wasn't."

Link with photo of the three students: