NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - After Tuesday's tornado, people rushed to their homes to survey the damage. But for one New Orleans police officer, a severely damaged house didn't stand in the way of his commitment to uphold the oath he took to protect and serve
"To know that I just can't do anything myself to pick this up is kinda, kinda hard," said Officer Willie Jenkins III.
Jenkins always pitches in when disaster strikes.
"That's the oath I took," he said.
The First District officer had just left his house Tuesday morning when he heard the alert come over his police radio.
"Got here to see this," he said of his crumbled house. "It's not a good sight to come home to.
While most would be paralyzed by the shock, for Jenkins, staying to survey the damage wasn't an option.
"We had to make sure everybody else was safe," he said. "That was the main focus."
With his wife and son accounted for, Jenkins hit the streets with his fellow officers, pulling people to safety from their damaged homes, keeping looters and sight-seers out of the hardest-hit neighborhoods and providing the reassurance to so many bewildered neighbors that everything would be ok.
"All these things will be replaced," Jenkins said.
Hours later, Jenkins and his wife returned home, and that's when the reality of the situation sank in.
"It's like a war zone," said his wife, Tonya Jenkins. "I would have never imagined it would be this way."
This loss is even more devastating because the house used to belong to Officer Jenkins' grandmother, who helped rebuild it, after Hurricane Katrina.
"My son, that was his main thing," Officer Jenkins said. "He said this house connected him to her. But you know what? Memories live on in all of us, so we'll be alright."
Even with the sun shining through the holes in their roof and water spewing onto the floor, the Jenkins family relishes in the smallest finds -like childhood pictures of their children that emerged undamaged.
"We got it out of the attic, miraculously. Well, where the attic was," Jenkins said.
In between his shifts keeping the streets safe, Jenkins and his wife discovered something beautiful: The same people he's responsible for protecting day in and day out are giving back to his family.
"We've had such an outpouring of love and support from so many people that it's refreshing to know its only stuff and it'll be rebuilt," Officer Jenkins said.
Some of Jenkins' police uniforms were destroyed in the tornado. He said some of his fellow officers pitched in to buy him new ones.