Dallas to the Rescue
BY: SUN STAFF
Sep 6, TEXAS (SUN) A Sun reporter talked at length yesterday with Sraddhadev Manu dasa, one of the New Orleans temple devotees recently rescued from the devastation of New Orleans. He described the circumstances faced by the devotees and Deities there, and the brave rescue team from ISKCON's Dallas temple who ventured forth to evacuate them.
Sraddhadev Manu dasa talked about the fierce hurricane that battered the city of New Orleans, followed by the floodwaters that destroyed much of the city. Somehow or other, by Krsna's mercy, the New Orleans temple was miraculously spared damage by either wind or water. The was no structural damage to the building's exterior, only minor damage to the grounds that can be repaired with maintenance landscaping.
Inside the temple, hurricane Katrina stranded 16 resident devotees along with 3 guests from New Jersey, who had come for the Janmastami celebrations. Katrina hit on the morning of Monday, August 28th. By Tuesday, floodwaters brought the city to a grinding halt.
Over the course of seven days, until their rescue on September 3rd, the 19 residents of the New Orleans mandir were fortunate to have an adequate supply of foodstuffs and water. While they had no electricity, gas, or running water, they were in cell phone communication with the outside world.
By September 3rd, the group had run out of water, and had to make a trip out into the city environs to get water for drinking and bathing. Later that day, the rescue squad from Dallas arrived to end their ordeal.
Several times over the course of the week the temple was visited by both military and police personnel, who came to advise the group to immediately evacuate the premises. The devotees and guests, however, were dedicated to remaining by the sides of the Deities, who continued to receive a relatively normal program of daily worship.
Finally the group was contacted by Nityananada dasa, the Temple President of Dallas, came extended an invitation for the Deities and devotees to come to Dallas, and the urged the devotees to accept. The New Orleans devotees agreed, and a group of seven Dallas devotees began the difficult trip into New Orleans, with Daruka prabhu driving a semi-truck. 16 seats were provided for the devotees, along with room for the Deities, who were transported back to Dallas in the truck.
As later mentioned by Mata Sri, 'Their Lordships had rescued themselves -- what else could explain the way the Dallas devotees got through all the military and police blockades to rescue the stricken devotees and the Deities, bringing them safely to Dallas? This is truly one of the Lords Pastimes.' We can also see this as an extension of the pastimes of the pure devotee, Srila Prabhupada, whose servants carry on the mission of the Sampradaya Acarya.
Sraddhadev Manu dasa went to great lengths to describe the bravery of the Dallas rescue team, and the kind-hearted and sweet devotional mood of all the Dallas yatra devotees, who stayed up very late awaiting the arrival of Sri Sri Radha Radha-Kanta, Sri Sri Gaura Nitai, and Lord Jagannath and Company.
The trip into New Orleans, and back out of the city, was certainly dangerous and difficult. A great deal of robbery, violence and mayhem was going on in the city. The party found it challenging to get to the temple because so many roads were inaccessible. They also met with roadblocks, and had to explain to military and police that they were going into the city to rescue the temple residents.
Throughout the entire period in New Orleans, Bir Krishna dasa Goswami stayed in close phone contact, constantly expressing his concern for the well being of the Deities and devotees. According to Sraddhadev Manu dasa, Bir Krishna dasa Goswami phoned the devotees every hour, all the way through the ordeal, constantly inquiring after everyone's welfare, impervious to the loss of sleep.
Their Lordships and the devotees arrived at Dallas temple near midnight, and all the resident devotees there we awake, carrying on an ecstatic kirtan to welcome the Deities. At midnight they performed a glorious arotik, offering all personalities from the New Orleans yatra prasadam, comfortable facility, and the loving association of the Vaisnavas. We are sure that a blissful and transcendental welcome was also extended by Sri Sri Radha-Kalachandaji to all the residents of the New Orleans yatra.
All 16 of the devotees currently remain at Dallas, and will stay there until Saturday, when Bir Krishna dasa Goswami is scheduled to arrive for a visit. Afterwards, some of the devotees, particularly the grhastas, will move on to other places, where they will stay until the New Orleans temple can reopen.
The Deities and pujaris will also stay at Dallas mandir, where the devotees are now making them a new altar. For the time being, they are residing in Srila Prabhupada's room.
In the humble mood of Lord Krsna's servants, the New Orleans devotees say they are in need of nothing for their personal comfort. They are content to perform the austerities required until they're back at the temple in New Orleans. In the meantime, they request that donations be made towards fixing up the temple grounds, and generally re-stocking the temple with consumable supplies that will allow it to re-open, hopefully in the very near future.