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Southwest Airlines Community

Reflections on Katrina

Explorer C
On this one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I think back with pride and LUV on the unbelievable Warrior Spirit our Employees displayed when they saw that their Fellow Employees were in need.  Catastrophic events such as Katrina truly bring out the best in People, as I witnessed firsthand.  Luckily, our Employee Catastrophic Assistance Charity was created for events such as these.  I remember watching CNN for hours wondering what effect Katrina would have on our Employees and on our operation, and I was not alone.  I knew the Catastrophic Assistance Charity's help was desperately needed, so I, along with the other Members of the Board, decided we needed to mobilize our Team and set a plan in action.  We decided to set up in the Headquarter Emergency Command Center so we would be near the Ground Operations Team and have access to the Inflight Team as they desperately tried to contact our Employees to make sure they were safe.  We had five phone lines manned for 12 hours a day, thanks to our Board Members and volunteers from various departments here at Headquarters.  But due to the lack of phone service in the 504 area code, we could not make contact and had to wait until Employees called the hotline that had been set up for them by the Company.  As the calls came in, the Ground Operations Team and other Departments would transfer them to us, and we could determine their needs and get money out to them as soon as possible. We could feel the fear and uncertanity in the voices of those with whom we spoke, and we knew we had to act fast.  Luckily, our account is set up at the Southwest Airlines Federal Credit Union, so we were able to wire money to the folks who still had access to their banks or who are Credit Union Members.  My thanks goes out to the Credit Union for all of their help in getting the tranfers set up for us--their help was invaluable.  Since so many of our folks had retreated to other locations, we were able to FedEx Visa gift cards and checks to them.  In typical Southwest fashion, our Employees reacted to this incident with a Servant's Heart by generously donating to our Fund.  Through private donations from Employees and through fundraisers held around the system, we received $302,443 in donations for this catastrophic event alone.  And, to date, we have given $543,300 to 281 Employees who were affected by Katrina. The Catastrophic Assistance Charity Board would like to thank the many Employees who devoted long hours to this cause--we simply could not have been successful without your help.  I would personally like to thank our Charity Administrator, Chris Shumate, for the many hours she spent away from her home and her two little boys to ensure that our Employees in need were taken care of.  She has a heart of gold and truly Lives the Southwest Way in everything she does.  This is just another reason why I love this Company and our LUVing family so much!