Thursday, September 01, 2005

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KATRINA RELIEF IN SECOND LIFE

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(Originally published here)

ReallyRick Metropolitan built a memorial to the victims of Katrina in Waterhead, and within hours of its creation, lit candles and other tributes had already been laid at the site. Metropolitan doesn't have any friends or relatives directly impacted by the disaster, but he was watching the news, and "I saw the pictures and was so overwhelmed. Once the reporters started crying I lost it." So with the help of Pathfinder Linden, he built the Waterhead site, which is not only a memorial, but an actual donation point-- if you have your web browser open while in Second Life, clicking on the sign launches you to a Yahoo page where you can contribute directly to the Red Cross. (Pathfinder and I are now working with Residents to set up a contribution system to turn Linden Dollars into to US$, so people can directly contribute their in-world currency to the relief effort.)

When I arrive in Waterhead, a man and woman are creating candles to contribute to the memorial. Their own real life intersection with Katrina cuts even closer.

"I have a friend that's still missing," Sunny Buttercup tells me, frowning. "No idea if she's OK. She's seven months pregnant." Sunny begins crying at that.

Sunny also worried about Jordon Jensen, the brawny man next to her, because he lives in the region, and went offline as Katrina closed in. Jordon now has the title "I survived Hurricane Katrina" over his head.

He was in a Louisina parish when it hit, he tells me.

"Oh my god," he says, "it was very bad, very wicked." Despite that, he didn't run away from the danger, but instead turned back, to where the storm had done some of its worst, in New Orleans. He wanted to get there to help.

"I drove to the foot of the causeway," he says, "and was turned around. And helped people on the way back and when I got home." A couple of his friends are still missing, though he hopes they've made it to Houston.

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"I have never in my 43 years on earth even with the military or law enforcement seen this much destruction, it really scared me," Jordon Jensen tells us. "It's bad, man. The levee system in New Orleans was only built to withstand a category three hurricane." Katrina was a Cat 5.

To give some reference to his sense of destruction, Jordon was in the Middle East during Desert Storm. "I tried to go back [into the service after] 9/11 but no, I was too old... I don't think it will be as many lives lost [over Katrina, as the September 11 terrorist attacks.] But the destruction is going to be horrible... you have corpses floating out of graves.

"Hamlet," Jordon tells me, "the only thing I know to do is survive and help."

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