StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-112672315830987.jpg’, ‘Photo by Jeff Havens’, ‘Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (left) and former mayor Doug Scott welcome Katrina survivors to Rockford at a late-night press conference Sept. 11.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-112672347431898.jpg’, ‘Photos by Jeff Havens’, ‘Fifty-one evacuees of Hurricane Katrina arrived at the Greater Rockford Airport terminal late Sunday just after 11 p.m.’);
Although 117 Hurricane Katrina evacuees have already arrived in Rockford in the weeks after the Aug. 29 storm, the first evacuees to arrive at the Greater Rockford Airport entered the terminal in the late hours of Sept. 11, five days after they were first expected.
Shortly after 11 p.m., 51 survivors of the hurricane and subsequent flood, landed at the airport in a chartered Sky King, Inc., jet from New Orleans.
The first few evacuees entered the welcoming area in wheelchairs, where they were attended to by a small group of volunteers, government officials, police and medical personnel.
Included among the 51 people were eight children. Five dogs and two pet birds also made the trip, which was a coordinated effort among federal, state and local authorities.
Evacuees were greeted with packaged sandwiches, soft drinks, water and other food, which was supplied by Salvation Army volunteers. After initial processing at the airport, sources said the evacuees were to be transported to, and temporarily housed at, the H. Douglas Singer Mental Health Center, 4402 N. Main St., until other accommodations are found.
Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) said evacuees will be given Rockford Mass Transit bus passes, and that the city has been working with state and local employment offices to assist the survivors in finding work.
Morrissey added the city would also help victims obtain temporary identification cards, which will be needed in their search for employment. He emphasized that whether evacuees decided to stay in the area on a short-term, long-term or permanent basis was the individual evacuees decision.
Former Rockford Mayor Doug Scott, who was representing Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), said he wasnt sure if there may be more evacuees and more planes coming to the area.
Scott is currently head of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. He was appointed to that position by Blagojevich, after Scott lost to Morrissey in the Rockford Mayoral election in April.
The 51 evacuees are in addition to others who arrived in the area on their own during the past several weeks.
A source at the Rock River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, who wished to remain anonymous, said as of Sept. 7, 22 families had arrived in the Rockford area, which consisted of an estimated 50-70 additional evacuees. The source said they were not part of the government effort for evacuees, and that they arrived through various modes of ground transportation.
From the Sept. 14-20, 2005, issue