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A Massachusetts mission

THERE MAY have been more questions than answers yesterday concerning the arrival times and futures of the 2,500 Hurricane Katrina evacuees headed for Cape Cod, but Massachusetts has answered the most pressing question in the affirmative by welcoming people who are in almost unimaginably desperate need.

The state was among the first to raise its hand to volunteer shelter and care for people who in many cases will come to Camp Edwards at Otis Air National Guard Base with little more than their tattered clothes and their nightmares. They are expected to begin arriving today.

Transcending politics, the Legislature and Governor Romney speedily agreed on a $25 million emergency appropriation bill yesterday to provide temporary housing, food, and some semblance of community for survivors of a disaster that all but obliterated the city of New Orleans and spread devastation to surrounding states.

In a phone interview, Romney said he has received no word on whether the federal government will reimburse Massachusetts for its efforts, but he said bookkeeping isn't the point. ''If we're reimbursed, fine," he said. ''If not, we'll live with that." Referring to the state revenue surplus, he added, ''Opening our hearts is the best way to use a surplus."

The state is doing more than writing a check. A network coordinated by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the state Department of Health and Human Services, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and others will provide triage for arriving evacuees, assess their medical and mental health needs, and connect them with doctors, nurses, and facilities for care.

The state is also providing debit cards and transportation so people can buy essentials. Insurance and legal experts will help cut through the paperwork so victims can file medical and property damage claims. The Department of Education, working with the Bourne schools, will place children in classrooms, though no one knows how many children will be arriving.

Hundreds of volunteers are stepping forward, offering to prepare and serve meals or opening their homes to evacuees. The Black Ministerial Alliance is coordinating financial and housing assistance through area churches and has named the Rev. Jeffrey Brown of the Union Baptist Church in Cambridge as ''mayor" of Camp Edwards. Businesses, including CVS and Verizon, are donating supplies to people for whom a toothbrush is a luxury.

Massachusetts citizens should be proud to offer what they can, for not only will their efforts redirect lives, but the people they meet and the stories of survival will affect their own lives forever.

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