My sister, Rebecca Foster, wrote this piece about trying to get me money after the storm. She emailed it to everyone but me, yet eventually I was able to pry the text from her to post here.
> Sending Cash to My Brother
Ken has a habit of being in the wrong place and the wrong time, but we are all used to that now. So when he moved to New Orleans, and Katrina's path became more and more clear, I thought "Here we go." Kept watching the reports, wondering what he was going to do. Worried about him, his dogs, the new job he was so excited about, the house he
was renting (where, he told me, he could see boats on the river and they looked like they were ABOVE the house - I didn't think that was a good thing then, either).
He headed to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, before the storm shifted east (universal family reaction: "That figures."). Phone calls went back and forth between our parents, Ken, brother Chris and myself, enough that we were assured of his relative safety and well-being.
Then he calls at 7 a.m. Thursday. I reached for the phone, still in bed on a lazy summer day in Michigan, kids still asleep and even the dog was stretched out on my bedroom floor..."It's summer, and you're calling me this early?"
"I'm trying to get out of town," was Ken's stressed reply. That woke me up. "I need to you check my bank online, I don't know if I can use my debit card if my bank is down."
So started a very long day. Ken would call me, we would get disconnected. He'd call again, we would talk for a minute, then the call would be dropped. At no time was I ever able to call him. Constant "all circuits are busy", busy signals, odd buzzing noises or just plain silence was all I would get. We checked the bank with no success - it could not be accessed. Did that mean he couldn't use his debit card? We weren't sure. We settled on wiring money. He would head to Meridian, hoping he had enough gas to get there, hoping there was electricity. I would figure out where to send money. Sounded easy.
Signing up with a money transfer service, I was impressed with the security at the site. It was so secure that I evidently flunked the first two sets of security test questions. It was also scary in the information they could pull up about me. In the first series of questions, they asked me what age range Dad was in, and the location
of a home my husband and I rented over 10 years ago. The second set was about what counties I lived in - as if I would recall this information from 20 years ago. I finally had to call. They asked me a third series of questions, and either they were fed up with my long-term memory loss or I got an acceptable number of correct
answers, but I had access at last.
Ken calls from Meridian. He is line for gas at Walmart. I complete the online transaction and wait for the confirmation email with the number he will need to collect the money. Ken calls again, he is getting something to eat at the Walmart, and, by the way, the debit card worked at the gas pumps. I am still waiting for an email. Ken calls again, he is line at the service counter. I am still waiting for an
email. Ken calls again, he is on his way to Atlanta. The very kind lady at the Walmart service desk couldn't help him without the reference number I was still waiting for. (Note from Ken: "And I still had to wait thirty minutes behind someone trying to return a packet of Nair without the receipt.")
At 7 p.m., three hours after I supposedly completed the transaction, twelve hours after Ken and I first talked, I am still waiting for an email.
I called the company. Another security issue. They needed to know my relationship with the person I was sending money to. "He's my brother," I replied. "And he was living in New Orleans, managed to get out to Hattiesburg and he is trying to get to Atlanta and then Florida." The reaction was immediate. They would do whatever was
needed to get the transaction completed. Two minutes later I was assured that the money was on the way and I would have the reference number in 10 minutes. I called Ken later that evening and gave him the number. When I checked this morning, he was so exhausted he hadn't been able to get anywhere to pick it up, but planned to go out soon.
And this was to assist someone who suffered loss, but was safe and healthy; has family who can support him; has reliable transportation; has friends who can take him in while he waits to see what happens next. What happens to the ones with no home, no family, no food, no water, no money, no place to go?