Hurricane Relief
The best tuna sandwich I ever ate
Trucker recounts true story of hurricane victims who, despite losing everything, still gave to a group of hungry, stranded truckers

I just returned from New Jersey. While en route, I got stuck in traffic on Interstate 81, just below the Virginia state line near Bristol, TN, because of a traffic accident with a fatality involved. The accident involved a tanker truck that was hauling a hazardous material load that developed a leak, which meant those of us stuck on I-81 weren't going anywhere for several hours.

After being told by the Tennessee state troopers that we would be sitting still until the cleanup was completed, I set the brakes on my truck and got out to stretch my legs. Other truck drivers did the same, and at one point there were five of us standing there by my truck, complaining.

Sitting right beside me in the left lane, were two elderly people in a Silverado pickup truck, which was loaded quite well. The man, Joe, lowered his window and asked what was going on regarding the traffic situation.

Soon, we were all talking with this couple. I mentioned that if I had known about this, I would have bought something to drink, for I was becoming thirsty. The lady, Anna, said that they had plenty of water, and sodas in the cooler in the bed of the truck, and offered everyone present something. While she was back there, she said that she had plenty of tuna salad made up, and asked if we would be interested in a sandwich.

After some urging from Joe, we agreed to a sandwich.        

While Anna was making the sandwiches on the tailgate of the truck, she was singing like a songbird. She had to be close to 70, I guess, and she had a remarkable voice.

When she finished making the sandwiches, and putting everything up, Joe raised the tailgate of the truck to close it - I noticed a Mississippi license plate on it.

I inquired as to what part of Mississippi they were from. Joe said Biloxi. Knowing that Biloxi had been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, I asked if they sustained any damage.

Joe told us that they had lost everything except the clothes they were wearing and the belongings they had packed in the pickup.

All of us drivers tried unsuccessfully to pay them for their drinks and the sandwiches. They would have nothing to do with it.

Joe said that their son was living around Harrisonburg, VA, and that they were going there.   

He's in the real estate business and knew of a home that became open. They were headed there to start all over. Starting over at their age, I'm sure, would not be easy.

I will soon be 48 years old, and I have to say that I have never eaten a tuna sandwich with side orders of reality and humility.

These people lost everything except their pictures, important documents, and some clothes. Joe had managed to get their antique heirloom grandfather clock into the bed of the truck, and Anna got their china and silverware, but that was all. These wonderful people lost practically everything they owned and still, would not accept any money for their food and drinks.

Joe said, "It is better to give than it is to receive." They described to us how during the hurricane they had sought refuge behind a block wall that he had built years ago, and they watched their belongings and their home disappear in the winds of Katrina. Joe said that during all that, he had one hand holding onto Anna and the other holding onto God. Joe and Anna, and their truck came out of Katrina unscathed.

As I stated before, Anna was singing a song while making the sandwiches. The song is titled, "I Know Who Holds Tomorrow," an old gospel song. She knew every word, and was quite a gifted singer.

Have you ever heard it? The chorus of this song goes:

"Many things about tomorrow,
I don't seem to understand.
But, I know who holds tomorrow,
and I know who holds my hand."

There is no doubt, in my mind, who was holding both of their hands.

I know there have been many, many e-mails that have circulated over the years about things that will touch your heart, but this one I was personally involved in.

Forget all of the politics that the news is thriving on, and think about people just like Joe and Anna. If you can, help out with the victims' relief funds. If you cannot, at least offer a prayer for everyone involved.

I know that these two elderly people got to this old boy.

I will always remember them. Joe and Anna, if by some strange way you, or someone you know reads this, and shows it to you, God bless you!

Mike Dowdy
Hartselle, AL

Editor's note: OOIDA member Frank Smith sent us this story and helped us track down trucker Mike Dowdy who verified it.