Thursday, 08 September 2005
24th Bhaadon (Samvat 537 Nanakshahi)
New Orleans, Louisiana
Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, the Sikh Scriptures and eternal Guru of the Sikhs, was recovered yesterday from the submerged New Orleans Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) after a rescue operation spanning 22 hours by a team of UNITED SIKHS volunteers led by rescue experts.
The Gurdwara on Morris Rd., East New Orleans, built about fifteen years ago, which was under 9-feet deep water, bore the brunt when the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina unleashed its fury on the city. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji could not be removed from the Gurdwara before mandatory evacuation orders were issued.
UNITED SIKHS requested federal and state government agencies for immediate removal of the Holy Scriptures from the submerged Gurdwara. A letter was sent to President Bush on 4-Sep seeking assistance to airlift the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. But there was no response. The UNITED SIKHS emergency relief team then sought the help of UNITED SIKHS volunteer, Ranbir Kaur, a US Army National Guard from Bakersfield CA, to hire the rescue services of SRT (A private helicopter special response and training company of California) and launched the rescue operation. It took three days to obtain clearance from different agencies before SRT could access the flood affected area. In a precarious environment, amidst curfew and random shootings the UNITED SIKHS rescue squad comprising Hardayal Singh and Bhai Nirmal Singh teamed up with air force rescue experts David Cruz and Tom Bausman of SRT to remove the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji in an operation that lasted over a period of 22 hours from 5pm on Tuesday until 3pm yesterday.
Zodiac Boats equipped with under water cameras and rescue equipment were used to reach the flooded Gurdwara building. It was completely damaged inside. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji's swarup was on the Palki (palanquin) and floating on water when Hardayal Singh, a rescue team member, entered the building. "I was amazed, looking at the Guru Sahib's sukhasan on the palki, floating on five feet of water and untouched by the flood waters," he said.
Hardayal Singh paid his respects and carried the Sikh Scriptures to the rescue boat. He also retrieved gutkas, pothis, khanda, kirpans and other religious material from the building. A joyful gathering of Sikhs paid their respects as the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji was brought to the president of the Gurdwara, Sumir Kaur's, home, which is also the UNITED SIKHS Katrina relief command center.
"I am overwhelmed and glad that Guru Granth Sahib ji has been recovered from the floods. I am honored to have been part of this rescue operation" said Ranbir Kaur of Bakersfield, CA.
Meanwhile, UNITED SIKHS volunteers and members continue to serve hot meals to over 1300 evacuees in Donaldsonville, Louisiana. More volunteers are flying to Baton Rouge from California and New Jersey to meet the demand of the UNITED SIKHS GHANAIA Katrina Relief efforts. "More supplies and funds will be channelled to the UNITED SIKHS command centre in Louisiana to meet the demand of Meal Ready-to-eat in Donaldsonville" said Dr Satwant Kaur Dhamoon, NJ Director of UNITED SIKHS.
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