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In memoriam: Meg Perry

Wreck kills activist in New Orleans

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In a cheapened world where the word "hero" is tossed around like a used paper cup, Meg Perry was the real thing.

I met Meg while I was in the Gulf Coast disaster region. She was one of the many volunteers who made a personal decision to put her life in Portland, Maine, on hold, pack up her International school bus, "Frida," with volunteers and supplies, and drive into the chaos with only one aim--to render assistance to those who had been abandoned by government and nation.

People like Meg don't come along every day. She was the real deal--a natural leader who herded her young and inexperienced crew to do what needed to be done with no goals of recognition or gain. She had a natural and in-born need to lend a hand, attaching her team to the Malik Rahim's Common Ground Collective in the Algiers section of New Orleans, doing the work that needed to be done www.commongroundrelief.org/.

She came through Raleigh recently, heading south after a resupply in Maine. We arranged a tank of biodiesel and a little party for the kids and helped them load up with supplies we had collected--backpacks full of school supplies for the children of Plaquemines Parish and New Orleans.

Meg was one of those people you just liked--genuine, loving and capable. I rode by where they stayed that night and encountered her up early, supervising the servicing of the bus, final packing and loading, and fixing coffee for her friends. I had to move on. I gave her a hug and told her I'd see her in Algiers. I will never get the chance.

This month, we got some bad news. An inexperienced driver made a snap decision on eastbound Interstate 10 a half-mile west of the Poydras-Superdome exit. The 40 passenger Bluebird, directed to perform a maneuver those clumsy and lethal devices aren't good at all, swerved and began to bounce from guardrail to guardrail, eventually rolling over on its right side at speed. Meg, standing next to the driver, supervising, was ejected through the windshield and ended up with the wreckage on top of her. The only good thing about the disaster was that her death was instantaneous.

Three others were badly injured, the mission ending, scattered along the dirty asphalt--all of this pointing out that the Gulf Coast remains a fluid and dangerous situation that is not getting better and still in grave need of more people like Meg Perry to make the difference. While other organizations are getting the bulk of the press, ask anyone in the region who is doing the heavy lifting, and they will tell you Common Ground or Veterans for Peace.

Meg Perry is one of the immortals now, forgotten perhaps by the larger sweep of history, but eternal in those she encountered along the path of her life. She was 25. x

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