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Pensacola with a purpose: an ASB diary

Rain and plaster dust, and a big night out

Part Five of a five-part series. Read entire series.

Cast of characters: Kendrick Sledge, CAS’09 (coordinator), Matt Fleming, CAS’06 (coordinator), Katie Ennis, COM’08, Dan Leach St.-Germain, CAS’08, Stephanie Shimada, CAS/COM ’07, Karen Benabou CAS, Hayley Sher CAS ’09, Rosemary Egar CAS’09, Evan Goodman CAS’08, Rebekka Nodhturft CAS’08, Amy Schweikert CAS’09, Beth Hewes SED’08.

Friday, March 10

When the rain begins, Hayley — a compact ball of energy and inappropriate comments — is the first one out the door. We’ve started work an hour late today because of a downpour, and fresh storms continue to delay our progress on this, our last day. The rain turns from a light sprinkle to heavy drops, and we toss our tools inside the trailer and run outside. Kendrick resists, saying she doesn’t want to get her jeans wet, but she’s easily persuaded.

As the rain mixes with the plaster dust and grime on our faces, Dan starts running and sliding through the mud, and we begin a game of blob tag, where the person who is tagged joins forces with “It” and tries to get other people out. We are holding hands and running and laughing, and we are so dirty that Kendrick is threatening not to let us back into the van.

Today, as usual, we have a plan: from 9 to 5, we work on the trailer, tearing away its aluminum siding and replacing the rotting wood framing behind. We lay some more plywood flooring and cover our new framing with tar paper. From 5 to 6, we take a trip to Wal-Mart to buy snacks for the very long ride back to Boston; from 6:30 to 7:30, everybody showers and gets ready for our big night out at an Italian restaurant. In the van, we argue about who should take the first shower, and Kendrick and I repeatedly warn everyone that we have only one hour of primping for 13 people. We realize that our warning is being taken too seriously when Stephanie cuts her shower time down to 90 seconds.

After dinner, we start to pack up our things, and contemplate having a group sleepover in one of our apartments. We think again, considering the tiring 24-hour drive ahead, and scratch that plan. A few of us hang out in one of the bedrooms, playing catch with toiletries and making ninja headdresses out of T-shirts. A select group, I discover the next morning, will stay up talking until 2 a.m. They will take pictures of themselves in various states of sleep deprivation for amusement on the long ride home.

Saturday, March 11

What we didn’t do; what we did

At 8:30 Saturday morning, we are packed to go. This, we note, is the second time we’ve managed to do something on schedule; the first time was sitting down to last night’s dinner. There is some regret that we failed to bring our projects to completion, and there is also a warm and well-earned feeling of accomplishment for what we did do.

We drove 1,400 miles and worked five days to put our personal dent in the $13 billion in damage that was wrought by Hurricane Ivan. We understand that the storm destroyed 150,000 homes, and we know that we helped to repair only two of them, but we also understand that two houses is two homes, in this case the homes of Terry and Pamela and of Carolyn.

We also learned so much — like how to live with 12 strangers for a week, how to use power tools, how to build things up and take them down. We learned that bad puns never get old — they get better — and that a game like Produce Master, which really just involves saying the names of vegetables, can get very risqué and be very much fun.

We wave good-bye to our home for the past week. We snag a souvenir palm frond to remind us of where we went and what we did. And we climb in the van.

Read entire series.

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