SBC/ATT worker glad to be home

After spending six weeks in storm-torn New Orleans, Angelo Batista was home for Christmas. Batista, a resident of Orange, traveled with 150 other SBC/ATT employees to New Orleans to help repair the infrastructure of that city. Although he feels his time in New Orleans was well-spent and necessary, Batista was eager to return home to Orange.

In November, this group volunteered to drive their trucks and equipment to Louisiana to help re-wire the crippled city. Upon arriving, these men were overwhelmed by the devastation. "It looks like a nuclear explosion," described Batista.

Although much of the downtown area is intact, Batista reported that the surrounding areas were ravaged. He drew a scenario for comparison. "It's like New Haven not being touched, but all the surrounding areas-West Haven, Orange, Hamden-were devastated."

The waters have receded, but the ruins persist. "What's left - mold, houses off their foundation, cars overturned," said Batista.

The SBC/ATT employees stayed in a relatively untouched area in the city, away from the havoc. The hotel also housed workers from other corporations and states that had volunteered their help to New Orleans. Away from the devastation, these volunteers could enjoy some of the pleasures still available. "We eat dinner out every night at a different restaurant. And the restaurants are very good."

On the work site, however, the neighborhoods were hauntingly quiet. "We don't see people where we work. There are no stores. We must pack our own lunch."

Infrequently, folks could be seen wandering their devastated property, trying to clean up and salvage the remains. Batista said it was an unforgettable experience; "To see the looks on people's faces - talking to some and listening."

Batista heard many stories, some uplifting and some sorrowful. He recounted two different stories of two different men stuck on two different roofs for days. One bowed his head disconsolately while waiting for rescue, having lost his son to the swirling, dark waters. The other was rescued by a passing boat and went on to save another 80 marooned victims.

"It makes you appreciate what you've got," said Batista.

Still, Batista felt hopeful about the future of New Orleans. He estimated that it would take a good five to ten years to re-build the city, but the city would be resurrected. Despite the long road to full recovery, Batista has been assured that this year, "They're going to have Mardi Gras."

New Orleans will continue its restoration, utilizing all the aid and tools available. Others will make the pilgrimage to that fine city to rebuild its foundations. Batista, however, will not be among them. He said, "If I was single, I would do it again."

Batista maintains that it is his wife who is the true hero. His absence from Connecticut required his wife, Joanne, to carry on the responsibilities of the family alone. She managed the house, the routines and the two boys, Brandon and Blake. He marvels at the fact that, despite their geographic separation since November, the experience "has brought us a lot closer."

In spite of the fact that Batista missed his family while in New Orleans, he stated, "I wouldn't change it for the world."