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Remembering Camp Casey
San Diego Volunteer
A tall, touseled. blonde emerged from a tiny trailer and headed for the porta potty. She was immediately surrounded by well wishers, cameras and reporters. They were all touching, hugging and just trying to get close. Could this average looking woman really be Cindy? The same Cindy I had driven half way across the country to see? The quiet, poised woman I had seen on the Conyer's forum? I angled closer myself and suddenly she thrust her bra into my hand and said " hold this for me so it's not in the pictures." She was smiling and in her gentle way showed no impatience or irritation with "the folks."
I later learned that on occasion Cinidy left her tent at the camp and sought a bit of privacy in the tiny trailer next to the Crawford Peace House My friend Gloria and I left San Diego the day before and had just arrived in Crawford. Our plan was to bring supplies, stay a few days in support of Cindy and her small group of supporters and head home. Little did we know on the hot Texas morning, the grandest adventure of our 35 year friendship had just begun. Gloria, the skinny black girl from New Waverly Tx and Barbara, the surfer chick from San Diego were ready to WORK.
There were no toilets at he camp, there were buckets and if you were lucky, you cuold always get a ride back to the Peace House. At the Peace House, there was no phone and the plumbing was suffering from the sudden load. We were not the first San Diegan's to arrive, the other beat us by a couple of days and graciously provided orientation. We were in touch with our Air American station KLSD 1360. A lesbian couple, Julie and Jeannie, heard our first report. Jeannie is a plumber. They called their bosses, packed their tools and were right behind us heading to Crawford. Most of the work was done when they arrived but they were a joy. It was a trunaround trip for them. To their delight, Cindy heard the story and invited them to spend some quiet time with her.
Gloria began using the van we rented to "shuttle" visitors back and forth to the camp. My job title quickly became "the parking Nazi." The Peace House is located on a main drag and the locals were not used to traffic, especially gawkers and tourists who backed into the road, stopped to ask questions in the road and generally impeded them. I claimed the 200 feet in front of the Peace House as my domain and controlled it with an iron hand. I greeted literally every visitor who came to Crawford for the next month. Yes, month. Once situated, I could not leave. I arrived early in the morning and left late at night, falling into bed after a quick shower and bite to eat. Randi Rhodes Air America show brought many others to Crawford. They became the workers, the infrastructure. One grandmother came from UNalaska, Wa with a broken arm. She rented a van and drove that thing 12-15 hours a day.
There are too many stories to share on this site but each and every one of them deserves to be told. Not only the long time volunteers, but the day visitors, too. The couple who flew from Bangor Me just for the day, ended up cooking and only spent a scant few hours at the camp. The man and his young son who were passing through on the way to a family reunion in Houston. He was elegant and well dressed but ended up going to the dump and emptying a huge uhaul of garbage. The republican contracor from Dallas who came with a truckload of ice, not even knowing that we were in an "ice crisis" that day. He fell to his knees later that evening as he stood before the crosses and sobbed like a baby. He told me he would lose family and friends but had to go back and try to talk sense to them about GWB and the war. This story was repeated thousands of times day in and day out as the crowds grew and grew.
The international community was there from day ONE. They know this was a story, a very big story. they came, they reported, they blogged and they photographed. The Peace HOuse went from no phone, no functioal toilet, to a state of the art international media center with 24/7 coverage. Whenever misinformation went out and was reported by our major media, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, FOX, the independents would jump on it and correct it within moments.
Back to the Peace House and the parking Nazi. The shuttle fleet grew each day and the faces changed every few days. Some never dreamed they'd be pressed into service but usually rose to the task with good humor and patience. The first Sunday, a minister, a state senator and a doctor who had been drivng all left at the same time and I was bereft wondering where the replacements would come from and how I could move all these people who were standing around waiting for a ride. I was in "my office", a tree with a table and umbrella, splashing cold water on my face. When I opened my eyes, this beautiful young man with the biggest smile and dimples I had ever seen, approached from across the street. He said, "hi, I'm Joe, moving from Ca to Austin, decided to came down with this 15 passenger van and see if I could help." He and his friend Sylvia, drove that day, night and the next day and night. They slept in the van and came back the next weekend and did the same.
I would be remiss if I did not comment on the Crawford PD. After some initial posturing, they turned out to be our "best friends." Police Chief Donnie Tidmore, gave me his personal number. His officers were helpful, polite and understanding. The 200 feet in front of the Peace House was turned into a one way traffic lane, blocked by cones and saw horses. It kept the road clear and eventually, we were allowed to use the two huge city lots next to the Peace House for the 7 vans we rented and the Greyhound buses which brought hundreds at a time the last weekend. The police department never issued a single ticket or towed a single car. This was in spite of the fact that folks parked in the middle of the street. blocked fire hydrants and made illegal turns. They parked beside the railroad tracks and broke every possible rule. Albeit, the "rules" were often nonexistant or ambiguous.
We all knew that a serious accident or incident in front of the Peace House would be the story of the day and could quite possibly thwart the whole movement. So my dictatorial ways were respected and tolerated. I never left my chosen post and in fact never visited the camps at all. That is until Joan came to sing for us and Sheila Jackson Lee came with her elegance and eloquence to inspire us. A volunteer Pat Manning, literally drug me away and sent me to the cam p with the promise that she would man my post and keep it safe. It was a rapturous evening and I was so grateful to Pat for her loving gift to me.
Another story, if you will allow me. Pat came with her husband Ed, and her daughter, an attorney and her two beautiful little grandsons. They planned a short stay. It was not to be. Her daughter manned the visitor table, the boys washed the vans and her husband Ed went from ice chest filler to FOOD AND BEVERAGE MANAGER. Pat bought airline tickets for her daughter and the loys when it was time for them to go. She and Ed stayed on till the end.
Many on the dark side have said we were financed by Michael Moore or some other rich liberal. Nothing is further from the truth. The volunteers came from every state and country, on their own dime, and in many cases with great sacrafice. We were not the hippies and Black power folks from years ago. We are the doctors, teachers, architects, veterinarians, rape crisis workers, airline workers, postal workers, lawyers, contractors, moms, dads, grandmoms and granddads, firemen, policemen, and we are the solders. We are smart, many retired. We are committed and we are going to take back our country.
The president is scared of us and he should be. We are republicans, democrats, libertarians, and independents. We are pissed and we know this is not about politics. This is about RIGHT AND WRONG. Ciindy lit the match, it flickered but now is a fire storm like nothing we have ever seen. Look out Mr. President, we are coming! On September 24th, we will be heard, hundreds of thousands of us! The rising gas prices and your callous handling of the victims of Katrina have only strengthened our resolve.