Benza reports on mudslide assistance
by Chad Benza –
MUDSLIDES IN LA CONCHITA destroyed 16 homes and killed 10 people. The Salvation Army provided assistance to victims and disaster relief workers.
A soldier and employee of the Santa Barbara Corps, Chad served with the emergency disaster service team at the January 10, 2005 La Conchita mudslide. Ten people were killed and 16 homes destroyed.
Having grown up in a small town five miles from La Conchita, I was connected to the small community and its residents. The mudslide happened a little after 1:00 p.m., and within three hours of the disaster, The Salvation Army had set up a canteen, with the Santa Barbara Corps alternating cooking and serving meals with the Ventura Corps.
We were escorted to the scene by the Highway Patrol. Seeing part of the town swallowed by 400,000 tons of dirt left me speechless. My first thought was to find out if two of my close friends had made it out of their homes safely; I was told by a firefighter that they were still missing. Later, I found out that they had died in the mudslide.
I tried to remain calm as I stood at the base of the slide and watched as the search and rescue teams pulled bodies from the mud one by one. I stood with friends who had lost everything: cars, clothes, pictures, pets—everything was gone. Tears of confusion, anger, anxiety, and stress were all in the tired eyes of my friends. We formed prayer circles and prayed. God provided me with an abundance of comfort so I was able to provide it to the victims.
As I stood with my friends around 3:00 a.m. Wednesday morning, I realized that in all the chaos, confusion, destruction, and despair—God was there. He was in the prayer circles, he was in the hugs, he was in smiles, and he ran the rescue operation. We were his tools. I praise God for The Salvation Army, as we were able to help so much in such a desperate time.