The strain was beginning to show Tuesday afternoon on Ester Carroll's face. Since the tornado tore the roof off her Fremont Avenue North apartment, Carroll, 36, has been living in a truck, along with her boyfriend, 19-year-old son, two neighbors and their four children. The apartment building isn't safe, the landlord is in Bermuda and no one can tell the residents when their homes might be livable again. On Tuesday morning, Carroll joined hundreds of others at the Project Connect: Tornado Assistance Center, the coordinated relief effort staged at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Five hours later, Carroll was still waiting, sitting on the floor in a carpeted hallway outside the Salvation Army room.
A place to sleep, food, clothing, a hot shower - she would be seeking all of these if anyone behind the tables called her number. But the folks with the Salvation Army were only up to about 50, and her little slip of paper said 215.
Carroll had a sandwich in a paper bag, uneaten. "I'm so disgusted, I don't think it would go down."
Two women nearby were shouting at a man wearing a T-shirt that said "St. Stephen's Street Outreach." "They've been shuffling us from line to line since 10:30!" yelled one woman, her face red with rage.
Inside the room, someone with a bullhorn was telling everyone who didn't have a number to go back to the armory, the emergency shelter for tornado victims, or to the Salvation Army's North Side location, 2024 Lyndale Av. N. Everything would go much faster, the voice blared, if people calmed down and waited their turn.
Most people were doing that, waiting in line, leaning against walls or sitting on benches and floors.
Carroll's eyes were red from two sleepless nights, and a teardrop blossomed when she thought about it all. "Right now, it just feels like a bad dream, and I can't wake up from it," she said.