Mother returns from service
Craig resident Jennifer Tipp plans to make a scrapbook detailing her time spent helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina, even though she said it was three weeks she’ll never forget.
The Red Cross deployed Tipp Sept. 1, days after she finished the first of her training classes.
Tipp, and emergency medical technician, joined the Red Cross seven months ago.
“Just as soon as I finished my class, the hurricane hit,” she said. “You can’t do any better than learning hands-on.”
She didn’t wait to be asked to go. As soon as she heard the news, she called the Red Cross and volunteered. She left three days later.
She’d just finished her training in family services. Other areas she can study are health, damage assessment, emergency vehicle operation, sheltering and feeding.
“I haven’t even begun to experience what Red Cross can teach you,” she said.
Tipp has 2-year-old son, Kaleb, and a 6-year-old daughter, Brehanna. Tipp asked her mother to come from Washington to help care for them while she was gone.
“I couldn’t have done it without here coming here,” Tipp said. “It’s a lot harder to do stuff like that when you have kids.”
Her mother drove to Colorado on her birthday. It was a hard trip, fraught with car troubles.
“She contributed, and she didn’t even know it,” Tipp said. “The people who helped her get her contributed, too.”
Brehanna didn’t understand where her mother was going until Tipp showed her the newscasts.
“She was worried I wouldn’t be safe, then I’d call and she’d ask ‘How many people did you save today?'”
She was assigned to work in Hammond, La., for three weeks, taking hot food and water to the residents of small towns in the area.
“No matter what your training or your skills, you were doing mass care,” Tipp said. “That was their main focus.”
Hammond lost power, and many buildings and trees suffered wind damage, but it wasn’t as hard hit as many other towns. She said she saw roofs torn away, trees on houses and trees that were split down the middle.
“I’ve never seen damage like that in real life before,” Tipp said. “It was humbling.”
She lived in a church with other Red Cross volunteers, and each day, she traveled out in an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV), delivering some of the 30,000 to 35,000 meals the Southern Baptist Mission cooked each day.
Tipp describes and ERV as a gutted-out ambulance equipped to carry massive quantities of food and water.
The people she encountered during the deliveries were grateful to see them, she said.
“When just one person tells you how thankful they are, they make your whole day,” she said. “It’s a really good feeling.”
The people she met had been without food and water — some for days.
If they ran out of hot food, they handed out snacks, sometimes entire boxes of them.
“We never left anyone standing there hungry, that would just have killed me, I think,” Tipp said.
She said she often encountered amazement when she told people where she was from. The breadth of the response surprised Louisiana residents.
Tipp, too, was surprised by the nation’s generosity.
“There was so much that people donated,” she said. “You’d see U-Hauls going by full of stuff, and you didn’t know if that was just one person who loaded up or what.”
One day, a 19-year-old arrived from Tennessee with nothing but a bag and his dog. He quit his job and hitchhiked to the Gulf Coast to help. He was mugged twice on the way.
Tipp said the experience is something she’ll never forget. She told about seeing a man pushing a broom and telling her he knew one of his step-children was alive, but that he didn’t know about the other. He said, “There are people worse off than me.”
On her days off, she and other Red Cross volunteers traveled to New Orleans.
“That was real bad,” she said.
She remembers seeing crosses on homes and buildings indicating the date they were searched and the number of dead found. The silence was eerie, she said. The only people in the town were media, troopers or Red Cross volunteers.
There were signs on homes and businesses that read “Please loot, we want to shoot you,” she said.
“I was hard,” she said. “Sometimes you just wanted to take them and say come live with me, but there were just so many. You know you’re just doing your best to help in any way you can.”
Seeing the children was the hardest, Tipp said, but they were also the ones whose spirits remained high.
“You could see the shame in the parent’s eyes when they came to you,” she said. “You just wanted to hug them and tell them it was going to be OK.”
Tipp said she’d do what she did again, and plans to on a smaller scale.
She was planning to apply to work for The Memorial Hospital ambulance crew, but missed the interviews because she was in Louisiana. She’ll apply again.
Eventually, she’d like to become a nurse, but she will wait until her children are older to pursue that dream.
“You learn to appreciate what you have and, at the same time, to not need it as much because it could be gone in a second,” she said.
Tipp has lived in Craig for two years. Her husband, who works for Colowyo, was transferred to Rangely and then to Meeker and then to Craig.
Here is where they’ll stay.
“I absolutely love it here,” Tipp said.
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