Since 1986, Joe and Mary Puglise have served the cuisine of their native Louisiana Delta underneath an artificial oak tree at their Pier de’ Orleans restaurant in Mesa.
On Wednesday they were grateful nearly all of their relatives have been accounted for, but Joe Puglise worries about one aunt who lives on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain just north of New Orleans. "She’s the one we really want to hear from," he said.
Mary Puglise spent two days not knowing whether her father and mother, who are 89 and 83, had found safety after they evacuated their home in Lurling, La., on Sunday.
They left a message Tuesday that they were safe and had returned to their home, which has running water and phone service, but no electricity.
John Nelson of Mesa, who tended bar at a nightclub the couple once owned just outside New Orleans, stopped by the restaurant at 61 W. University Drive for dinner Wednesday. He said his family in the western New Orleans suburbs of Metarie and Kenner weren’t as lucky.
"My nephew just moved back there. He sold his house in Florida to get away from the hurricanes," Nelson said. "He bought a house in Chateau Gardens, but he never moved in, and it’s gone."
He said his displaced relatives are divided between northern Georgia and his son’s house in the Houston area.
"They’re telling them they aren’t going to be able to go back for three or four months," Nelson said.
Aid or offers of aid came in torrents from Valley police and fire departments, businesses, schools, churches, even poetry slam clubs.
Individuals are stepping up to the plate too.
"The number of calls offering donations has been the same as it was after the (Asian) tsunami, which was very high," said Tamara Skrovan, spokeswoman for the Grand Canyon chapter of the American Red Cross.