December 9, 2005

In the aftermath of this country's biggest natural disaster, millions ofAmericans found their normal way of life completely upside down. RegularNMRA SSO team owner, George Gallegos, and his driver, Carlo Catalanotto,both residents of New Orleans, are just two of the people who face anightmarish future without knowing where their world is headed. We'vebeen trying to stay on the phone with both families as they struggle tosurvive in the midst of the destruction. We'd like to update theirfriends, sponsors, and fans on their progress.

"People don't realize what they have until it's gone," George told us.

"People are down here fighting over a damned bottle of water. Fists flyover a cup of coffee. The TV coverage has done nothing but makeeverything sugarcoated. There's no way I can describe how bad it is downhere. I am at ground zero--everything is destroyed--and that goes on for90,000 square miles!

"I can't tell you how it makes me feel to have all these folks callingus asking what they can do for us," George continued. "Jim Middlebrook[of Vortech] said he would send anything--food, clothes,money--anything! Dale Cherry and John Meany told me they would give memoney, work, food, whatever. Mike Duffy, who doesn't have a whole lot,offered up his house. His house! Hell, Freddy [Cruz of The Clash of TheTitans] offered to have a collection right at the gate of his Houstonevent just for my team! Do you know how good that makes us feel?"

George is one of the lucky ones. His house, though damaged, stillstands, and he was not injured by the hurricane. The only thing he askedof the many generous people who offered aid was to find a job for hiscrew chief, "Big Pat" Layus. Pat lost his entire home, his place ofemployment--everything. To answer Pat's needs, Vortech stepped in andgave him a job at its research facility in California. They are housinghim, and Vortech is helping get Pat back on his feet. Pat's working inthe quality-control department running Zeiss coordinate-measuringmachines for the final inspection of blower parts prior to assembly.

The SSO and Pro 5.0 cars are the furthest things from their minds rightnow, but George was considering getting his entire team to BowlingGreen, Kentucky, for the NMRA World Finals "just to get away from all ofthe horror of New Orleans." That's just one story of the millions ofpeople who have been affected by this natural disaster. If you arecapable of reaching out to others, we invite you to do what you can.