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The Mounties of Mississippi
A FEW MONTHS after Hurricane Katrina, a group of Canadian police officers and their chaplain headed south to Gulfport, Mississippi. They took a week of annual leave and paid ...

THE MOUNTIES OF MISSISSIPPI

Andrew Cowan

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

A FEW MONTHS after Hurricane Katrina, a group of Canadian police officers and their chaplain headed south to Gulfport, Mississippi. They took a week of annual leave and paid their own travel costs. The question is, Why? The reason can be summed up simply: As police, we are “family,” and dozens of our family members were made homeless by Katrina. For many officers, the hurricane and flood surge left them with little more than the shirts on their backs and no place to live. The problem was compounded in that most families had to evacuate, and the workload was too heavy to give officers time off to arrange proper housing. Without their families, the job was even more difficult.

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We were struck by the sheer magnitude of the damage. Imagine that a giant hand had simply wiped away or knocked over everything in its path. Shrimp boats were tossed into tree stands, two-hundred-year-old trees were snapped, huge container ships were flipped on the beach, and houses were demolished—some under thirty-eight feet of water. Words or pictures can’t accurately describe what happened—you had to see it firsthand.

Our task was to drywall and insulate an uninsured home for a twenty-year veteran of the Gulfport Police Department. Before our arrival, volunteers had removed the moldy drywall and carpet, and all of the ruined possessions, disinfected the house for mold, and dealt with the site cleanup. What we found was a bare house and a jumbled mess of tools, toys, personal possessions, and tree parts in the yard. A week later the yard was cleaned up, the house insulated and drywalled, and some of the priming was done. We couldn’t do it all, but we had made a difference. We came as strangers to help, but left as family and friends of many we met along the way.

Within days after Katrina, the Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers-USA (FCPO) swung into action to help first responders on the Gulf Coast. This was well before any federal government aid began to arrive. FCPO-USA, in coordination with FCPO-Canada, solicited funds, materials, tools, and manpower to assist in the reconstruction effort. Many “family members” came. Regardless of their personal beliefs or affiliation, God was in it all. When tragic circumstances and disaster strike, everyone has good reasons they can’t go, and I understand that. But as one team member said, “To drop what I was doing, take a week off, and ‘just go’ was the best thing I have ever done.”


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