SPECIAL REPORT: Five years later, Katrina’s first responders remember

| 9/1/2010

Five years ago this week, as Hurricane Katrina plunged the Gulf Coast region into chaos, legions of first responders, including kind-hearted truckers, stepped to the front lines to bring relief to victims.

Two of those first responders, OOIDA Life Member Ray Iddings of Indianapolis and Life Member Fred Lapp of Sarasota, FL, were among those contracted to haul generators to the area to help restore power. But their generosity went beyond the scope of their contracts.

Iddings filled his sleeper with simple items like bottled water, crackers and peanut butter and gave the items away to those in need. In total, he made eight to 10 trips in the early days following the catastrophic hurricane.

“They were happy to get anything,” Iddings told Land Line on Wednesday, Sept. 1. “I was down there when the relief trucks were just starting to come in. Those people didn’t have anything.”

Iddings said he bought peanut butter and crackers because it was the simplest form of sustenance he could think of to give away.

“You can live on that if you have to,” he said.

“We’re all people. You’re supposed to help your brother,” he continued. “That’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Lapp stopped at a Walmart on the way to the region and stocked up on dog food. He said families couldn’t thank him enough for thinking of “man’s best friend” during such a chaotic time.

“I will give my time any day of the week. I know the stuff I carried down there was well used,” Lapp said Wednesday.

“The hurricane touched everybody. They didn’t ask for their houses to be destroyed. They didn’t do anything to deserve it. But people did what they could do to help out and I was no different.”

These days, trucking is keeping both men busy. Occasionally, they get the chance to pass through the Gulf Coast region and see the progress as well as the lasting effects of the devastation.

“It’s been interesting to go through there,” said Lapp, now 59. “They’re still rebuilding.”

Iddings, now 66, says he was strongly considering retirement from trucking, but had a change of heart. In fact, he recently bought a 2008 Volvo and has decided to stay out on the road.

“I’m working because I like it,” he said.

– By David Tanner, associate editor