Between a gorgeous, sunny weekend and the incomprehensible devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the disconnect was great. Unlike the weekend after Sept. 11, the days after this natural disaster found no orders to fly flags at half-staff. No spontaneous sign of public support sprouted up on houses and businesse. No broadcast coverage of sporting events was canceled. No national worship service was planned.
Life in America continued as on any end-of-summer weekend, except that fewer cars traveled the roads because of soaring gas prices. I did my Saturday routine: a trip to the post office, coffee with a former Roland Park Country School classmate in town from Seattle, and a few extra laps at the pool as the days grew short for outdoor swimming.
As I moved through the day, I listened to the radio. I felt a million miles and a world away from the Gulf Coast. But when I stopped at Tuxedo Pharmacy, two young girls outfitted in lime and pink were smoothing a bright pink table cloth over a card table in front of Eddie's. They taped up a florescent lime poster dotted with American flags. Careful lettering said, "Help Us Raise Money for Hurricane Relief."
Another sign said: "Lemonade 50�, Rice Crispy treats 50�, Cookies 25�." Individually wrapped cookies were tied with lime green ribbon.
Catherine Crozier, a fifth-grade student at my alma mater, explained how this table came about: "When we were watching TV together yesterday, we were just talking about how awful it was."
That's when she and her classmate, Rosie Cook, decided to do a bake sale like the one their school did for tsunami victims. They slept over at Catherine's and organized their relief effort. Early Saturday morning they baked up a storm and made lemonade. Catherine's brother, Claiborne, 8, assisted by taste-testing the lemonade. By noon they had received permission from Eddie's to set up their table in front of the store.
Eddie's shoppers streamed up to the table. The girls' classmate, Hooper Neale, and her mother joined them.
"Some people are just giving us $20 bills and not taking anything," marveled Rosie, who wore a pink Nantucket cap.
A Cross Keys friend came up. He just made a resolution not to drive his car one day a week and was on foot from Video Americain. "Walking makes you feel more connected to the community," he said.
So did this bake sale. In talking to the girls I realized the Croziers live a block away from me. I met Catherine's parents for the first time as they refilled the girls' ice chest and carried more baked goods from the family van.
By 4 p.m. the cookies and lemonade were gone. The jug, the extra napkins and cups, the card table, cash box, lime green posters and bright pink cloth went back into the van.
At home, the girls counted the money. They raised $338, which they planned to give in person to the Red Cross or Salvation Army.They told me their favorite part of the day was "helping the people."
My favorite part was reconnecting with a classmate, with whom I once started a playground newspaper, then seeing two girls take even greater initiative.
Because of them, people ran into each other, stopped, talked, enjoyed lemonade and reached out to hurricane victims. The girls let me connect with those on the Gulf Coast while I went through another privileged, and again spared, sunny September day.