Neighbor Flying Supplies to Hurricane Victims

My neighbor, Ted Ruscitti, is one of those people who, inspired by scenes of devastation, decided to actually do something about it. Here is a story about him, his cohorts and others unselfishly giving of themselves to help those in need:

"From the air, Gulfport, Miss., resembled a battleground: splintered buildings, uprooted trees, overturned automobiles, and debris piled five and six feet high along roadways heaved heavenward by hurricane-driven waters.

Drs. James Hennessey of Sewickley [Pennsylvania] and Thomas Doyle of Edgeworth could observe it all Monday from the windows of the airplane carrying them into the heart of the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.

"We didn't know where we were going," said Hennessey, a pediatrician... "I didn't know where I would be sleeping. It was just widespread destruction."

What they found, however, was a well-oiled disaster-relief effort headed by the Southern Baptist Conference, an agency practiced in delivering aid to hurricane victims. The organization was on the ground and running days before government agencies arrived, bringing succor to the needy in rural neighborhoods that bureaucracy had bypassed for larger numbers in New Orleans.

Hennessey and Doyle, an emergency department physician..., returned home late Wednesday. In separate telephone interviews Thursday, they offered a glimpse of what is happening in Biloxi and Pascagoula, Miss.

Both were recruited on Sunday by Ted Ruscitti, a Sewickley resident and private pilot, motivated by televised scenes of destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Ruscitti had contacted aid groups on the ground. He knew what was needed and had a plan.

Both doctors knew Ruscitti. Hennessey said he learned of the relief effort in church when the pastor of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Sewickley, which Ruscitti also attends, briefed the congregation at Ruscitti's request. Doyle said Ruscitti called him directly at the hospital.

"This is what I want to do," he told Doyle. "I've got a plane and medical supplies. I want to get in there."

Monday, the three loaded a plane owned by Ruscitti's television and radio consulting business and took off from the Beaver County Airport. Hours later, they were on the ground.

They checked in with a hospital in Gulfport, but it had enough doctors, so they spent their time at mobile medical clinics in Biloxi and Pascagoula organized by the Southern Baptist Conference. They slept on cots provided by the Red Cross in Baptist churches where the clinics were located.

Everything was organized by church leaders with the help of the Red Cross. The two organizations set up trailers equipped with showers, portable toilets and shelters to dispense food...."

Read more in this Beaver County Times article.

For more, see these related articles from the same newspaper:

Sewickley pilot puts out SOS for medical supplies

It's personal - Local doctor on his way to help