Where Were You? Volunteer Meditates on Goodness in Wake of Tragedy

September 11, 2001 was a trying morning for American Red Cross volunteer Virginia Tyler. It was her first day back at work after a serious car accident. “I had been released from the hospital about twelve hours before 9-11 happened. I had been in a very serious auto accident, had a fractured pelvis, fractured ribs, and decided it was best for me to work from home.” Virginia’s brother called her around 10:00 a.m. to relay the news of the disaster. “We just hung up immediately once I realized he was serious.”

The emotional toll of her personal recovery compounded with the sudden shock hit Virginia hard; she choked up even now when speaking to me. “I remember people jumping, that’s what I remember,” she said, heavy breaths trailing each statement, suppressing tears, “it was a very difficult thing to watch.”

On the one-year anniversary of 9-11, Virginia sent a flower to everyone who had helped her during her recovery.

On September 6, 2001, I was injured in an auto accident that put me on crutches for several months. Throughout that time my friends and colleagues helped me cope with my limited mobility. The gestures of help were many and varied: sending cards and flowers, relocating meetings, providing transportation, telling a funny story, carrying my laptop, or making me laugh. While many kind offers of assistance were not accepted, they were not forgotten.

On this day when you remember the horrific acts of violence against our nation a year ago, do not forget the acts of human kindness and generosity.

I know that I have not.

Thank you!

This blogger couldn’t have said it any better.

On the tenth anniversary of this tragedy, as you mourn the loss of innocent American lives and the senselessness of that violence, do not forget that there is ample goodness and resilience in the human spirit. I encourage you to think of the words of Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Let this day be a memorial to everyone who lost their lives that day and to all those who risked their lives to help; but let it also be a call to improve the world one simple act of goodness at a time.

A Legacy of Generosity

Chartered by congress as the official organization to handle disaster relief operations, the American Red Cross steps into the national eye as a force for good and service in the face of atrocity.  Never was our role more important or more evident than in the days, weeks, and months following the September 11thterrorist attacks.

Red Cross volunteer assists a rescue worker at ground zero.

 Following the attacks, the United States and the world teamed together in an unprecedented show of generosity, donating more than a billion dollars to aid the families affected by this disaster. This money became the Liberty Disaster Relief Fund, which helped the Red Cross mount a massive relief operation in New York, DC, and Pennsylvania, as well as creating the September 11 Recovery Program to provide assistance for over five years. By 2006, the Red Cross had helped nearly 60,000 families through this fund. Because the World Trade Center was a hub of international business and finance, many families outside the U.S. directly experienced the terror and loss from the atrocity. The September 11 Recovery Program provided services to over 500 individuals from other countries affected in the international office space. 

You can continue to support the mission of the Red Cross in the face of future disasters by donating to help fund programs like Community Disaster Education, Emergency Services, and Blood Services—right here in Central Ohio. Donate here. Volunteer here. Give Blood here.

Learn more about the Red Cross response to 9-11 here. Read stories from Red Cross 9-11 responders here.

Where Were You? A Volunteer’s 9/11 Experience

Mental Health volunteer with client post-9/11

After dropping her son off at grade school Tuesday morning, September 11th, Marjie Kukor pulled in her driveway to find her neighbor standing in the yard looking bewildered. “Did you hear what happened?” the neighbor asked.

 “September 11th was what prompted me to volunteer in the first place.” Marjie said she called her local chapter that day and within the week she was training to become a disaster mental health volunteer with the American Red Cross.

Because she was hesitant to leave her family during such an emotional and vulnerable time, Marjie served at her home chapter doing Disaster Mental Health counseling for the volunteers who returned  from New York in the weeks following 9-11. She also travelled to local schools and businesses to give presentations about preparedness and coping with terrorism.

“I was struck by the people who would return from New York and start talking in vivid, graphic detail. They seemed to appreciate having someone to talk to about their experiences.” Marjie also did some phone counseling designed to allow people to talk about their experiences with trained Disaster Mental Health Volunteers.

 Marjie feels that the ten years since 9-11 have changed our nation and our levels of awareness and preparedness. “We had always put emphasis on being physically prepared, but terrorism is psychological. And it’s not enough to be physically prepared, we also need to be mentally prepared as far as what we can do to prepare. Nothing drove that home quite like 9-11.” 

 The American Red Cross realized that the psychological impact of the 9-11 attacks were going to be widespread, complex, and lasting. As the number of US and international residents affected, physically and emotionally, by the disaster climbed, Red Cross developed a partnership to most-effectively serve those individuals.

Besides providing trained volunteers like Marjie in New York and local chapters around the country, the Red Cross teamed up with  the September 11th Fund to create an innovative long-term program to more effectively assist those with 9-11/related psychological distress. By June 30, 2006 the 9-11 Mental Health and Substance Abuse Program had assisted 10,096 individuals.

Learn how to become a Disaster Mental Health volunteer here, or call 614-253-2740 ex 2355.  Learn more about Red Cross response to September 11th here.

Where Were You? One Volunteer’s 9/11 Red Cross Experience

When the man in the black suit walked up, President George Bush paused in his reading of “The Pet Goat” and even the second graders could tell that something was gravely wrong. That class in Sarasota witnessed the president’s reaction to the first attack onUS soil since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Like the president, Red Cross disaster volunteer Colleen Shillington was in Sarasota that morning visiting her daughter, and like the president she was shocked. It took Colleen a few days to get back to Columbus, “There were no planes allowed to take off. Two days later, when I did get to fly out, there were guards at the airport with machine guns.”    

Colleen was one of many in the first wave of response to the disaster. American Red Cross disaster relief workers from all over the United States came to Manhattan in droves. Upon her arrival, Colleen realized that the scope of the disaster was massive and that the responders would have to be creative. “Our first operation was set up inside a Bally Total Fitness. We were using weight benches as desks to do our registration paperwork. In disaster situations you have to improvise, use what you’ve got in front of you.”

Red Cross workers observe the aftermath.

Eventually Colleen was moved to a more permanent location on Canal Street and set in charge of registration. She remembers how many people there were from every age and background. “For some of the clients we needed interpreters, we were very close to New York’s China Town and some didn’t speak English.”  

One of the most remarkable parts of Colleen’s time in New York was the way that the citizens banded together. “Right next to canal street service center there was a restaurant run by a guy named Tony. He opened the doors, took money out of his own pocket, and just started feeding people.”  Colleen says there were many more just like Tony, residents of Manhattan who were ready to give whatever they could to help their neighbors and the relief workers. “The people who resided there constantly wanted to help. People saw the need and they just pitched in. They were really trying to take care of us volunteers.”  

57,434 Red Cross employees and volunteers from all 50 states were assigned to disaster relief operations around the nation, especially in Manhattan and the sites of the other two attacks. Those volunteers were from all over the country, but they were all there for the same reasons: “Everyone left their egos at home; they were about business and really trying to make things somewhat better for those people,” says Colleen.  

Teams like the one Colleen worked with spent the days and weeks following the disaster helping the people of New York with immediate needs like food, clothing, shelter, and financial assistance. She remembers the difference Red Cross assistance made to those who came to the service sites: “There were a lot of tears, a lot of people leaving in gratitude. You could see by people’s walk and stances; when they first came in their heads were hung low—when they left there was a little more perk in their step, it seemed like they could see a future.”

Over the course of the relief efforts, the American Red Cross served 14,113,185 meals and snacks, opened 60 shelters for 3554 families, and deployed 292 Emergency Response Vehicles.

Learn more about the Red Cross response to 9-11 here or become a Red Cross Disaster Action Volunteer like Colleen.

When the Lights Go Down in the City…

 

Reading to our youngest sister. Reading is the greatest- even when the lights are on!

Many residents along the east coast are left in the dark after Irene. Though we haven’t felt the effects of the tropical storm this far inland, we are no strangers to the headache of power outages. With severe thunderstorms, high winds, tornadoes, and winter storms, Ohians have the potential to lose power year-round.  Here are some interesting tips from NPR’s Linda Holmes for keeping spirits up while the lights are down.

Reading. Of course, the most obvious and substantive of suggestions is to read a book. It’s absolutely true that this is a great time to rediscover your bookshelf, particularly if you have a nice window with some natural light and a comfy chair. Books! Comic books! A big fat magazine!

Puzzles. If you’re anything like me, you have a veritable forest’s worth of uncompleted crossword puzzles in your house. If you’re slightly less like me, maybe it’s Sudoku. You’ll have fun, you’ll stay sharp, and you’ll remember what you did before Angry Birds.

Reading to someone. Reading for pleasure is one thing, but I feel at times like reading to each other — other than reading to little kids — has been lost a little. When I was a middle-school-aged and we would go camping, my family would read books out loud at night. Sometimes it was a family story like Sounder, and sometimes it was a scary story like “The Most Dangerous Game,” “The Telltale Heart,” or “Leinengen Versus The Ants.” (That makes me wonder whether someone — probably my dad — owned a book of stories called That’s Okay; You Didn’t Want Your Ten-Year-Old To Sleep Anyway.)

Reading to each other is fun. Everybody can lie down, relax, and listen. It’s like your iPod, only a person! (Kidding, kidding. Your family may like each other even more than iPods.) Be ambitious; try a novel. (Not Moby-Dick or anything.) It’s a good time to get kids to try things they might refuse when they had the choice of playing the XBox or watching television. See what they do; they might surprise you. I loved it when my family read together, even when I was older.

Jigsaw puzzles. Another one we used to do in my family when we weren’t plugged in. Have a big table? That’s the entire list of supplies.

Board games. Pop Culture Happy Hour covered board games recently while I was on vacation (it was a pretty wonderful discussion, and I can say that because I wasn’t there). They talked about the evils of Monopoly and the difference between Scrabble People and Boggle People, but my experiences go far beyond those basics. There are so many games — Life, Payday, checkers … Careers! Holy cow, I forgot all about Careers.

If you’re really ambitious or you’re really going to be without power for a long time, let your kids make up their own game. If you have an old board they’re not using anymore and some construction paper, they can make their own “-opoly” game where they sell off the rooms in your house and the stores you visit.

Battery-powered radios. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people in the last couple of days that go something like this: “Do you even have a battery-powered radio anymore that can run on replaceable batteries?” “Uh … wait, do I?”

Remember to think about safety before entertainment. Red Cross has some good tips for how to handle food storage during a power outage. Make sure that you have a well-stocked and easy to locate emergency kit (tips for building one) and a first aid kit as well.

Thanks to NPR’s Monkey See blog for the content of this article.

C’mon Irene! Ohio Lends a Hand in Hurricane Relief Efforts

Two evacuees in a Rhode Island Red Cross shelter last night

In the wake of Hurricane Irene, thousands of people have turned to the American Red Cross for help. Many communities along the east coast are suffering from significant flooding, wind damage and widespread power outages. Last night, the Red Cross operated or supported about 340 emergency shelters with more than 8,600 residents from North Carolina to New England.

Ohio has sent 113 volunteers to the east coast so far, including Lynn Cook, Director of Communications here at the Columbus Chapter. She is assisting with sheltering operations in Rhode Island. All ten of the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles  in Ohio have been deployed and the Red Cross has tens of thousands of meals ready to serve in affected communities.

The Red Cross projects that the cost of helping the victims will be in the millions. Michael Carroll, CEO for the Columbus chapter, noted, “The communities facing flooding and wind damage this morning do not feel like they have dodged a bullet. Recovery efforts are just beginning for many families today.”

 People who can help are encouraged to click, text or call to donate to American Red Cross Disaster Relief.

  • ·        Visit www.redcross.org , call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
  • ·        Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

 Irene has already caused the cancellation of more than 60 blood drives resulting in a shortfall of more than 2,000 blood donations over the past few days, a devastating blow to an already low blood supply. The Red Cross is urging immediate blood and platelet donations in areas unaffected by this storm and asks that people in affected areas consider donating blood once it’s safe to do so. To schedule an appointment, please call 1-800-RED CROSS or go to redcrossblood.org.

Learn more about Red Cross relief here or become a Red Cross volunteer today!

 

Tips for Extension Cord Safety

In the last several months alone, our volunteers have responded to many home fires believed to be caused by the misuse of extension cords. Here are some safety tips recommended by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission. Implementing these tips will reduce your risk for preventable, extension cord fires.

  •  Avoid connecting multiple sets of extension cords together for extra length.
  •  Do not run cords under rugs or furniture. This increases the likelihood of overheating and eventual fire.
  •  Don’t use old or damaged cords.
  •  Don’t exceed the total wattage rating by plugging in too many appliances.
  •  Don’t leave prongs exposed, even partly, when the cord is in use.
  •  Don’t use staples or nails to attach extension cords to any surface.
  •  Don’t overload cords, which can lead to overheating.
  •  Replace cords that are cracked or frayed.
  • Don’t run cords near heaters or radiators.
  • Make sure you have the right cord for the job. Don’t use light-duty extension cords for large wattage needs, like air conditioners or freezers.

Find more fire safety tips at our website.

Thanks to Sharon, Disaster Action Team volunteer, for writing this post!

Fire Safety Steals the Spotlight

Elementary schoolers learn about fire safety during lunch.

Even the famous face disaster, just ask country star Trace Adkins. He and his family lost their home this June to a fire that began in the garage. Luckily, his three daughters knew exactly what to do to get out safe.

 

Rhonda Adkins, the singer’s wife and mother of the three girls said: “”They ran to their safe place like we practiced, in the front yard at a big tree, and it worked. You know, fire safety is so important, and today we used it.” (via CNN)

The American Red Cross has continual efforts throughout the US to teach youth what to do in case of fire. And right here in Columbus, our very own Community Disaster Education team goes into local schools, camps, and churches to instruct youth on the importance of fire safety. “As adults we don’t realize, because it seems like common knowledge, but kids have to learn this stuff somewhere,” said Anne Hemphill, a Community Disaster Education AmeriCorps member with the American Red Cross of Greater Columbus.

 

With several programs, including puppet shows and interactive games, the Community Disaster Education Team has great success engaging kids and making sure that vital information gets across to them. “A little girl stopped me in the grocery store and said ‘you’re the guy who taught me about smoke detectors,” said Tola Gaiusbayode, a second-year AmeriCorps member with the team.

 

 Learn more about Community Disaster Education here in Columbus. And schedule a CDE presentation for your classroom, scout troop, or club; it could save a life!

 

Thanks to CNN for story content.

Photo of the Day: Red Cross Disaster Action Team

Columbus Red Cross disaster volunteers respond alongside Columbus Fire department, date unknown. The American Red Cross enjoys a collaborative relationship with local police, fire, and emergency management organizations. These relationships allow us to most effectively fulfill our goal of helping people prevent, prepare for, and respond to disaster. To this day, the Disaster Action team continues to respond daily to home fires in the Columbus community. Learn more.

Why I volunteer with the American Red Cross of Greater Columbus

I believe that in troubling times, we are often overwhelmed by the support of others and can’t always figure out the best ways to say thank you. I find myself very blessed and happy that through volunteering with the American Red Cross of Greater Columbus, I found my own way of being able to say thanks by giving back.
 

I started volunteering with the Red Cross Public Affairs Team in August of 2010 after I heard about the group from a local public relations professional. I was finishing up an internship I had started before graduating from college and was preparing to enter the job search. I knew that the job search would be a long one in the current economy, so I wanted to remain relevant in the public relations world. I was considering searching for a temporary internship, or some volunteer work, when I was notified of the Public Affairs group. I immediately knew this was something I wanted to be a part of.
 

My connections with the Red Cross are not unlike many other people in that they have been there for me and my family. I had a pretty rough childhood while I was growing up, as my dad often made trips to emergency rooms and hospitals. I remember a few summers when I spent more time in hospitals than I did with friends. Unfortunately, these medical conditions continued for many years. I especially remember trips to the emergency room during my emotionally draining senior year of college. Due to the conditions my dad was being treated for, he often needed to receive blood. When I was younger, I never really took time to think about where the blood he received was coming from, but when I got older, I was very aware. I started to give blood as often as I could as a way to give back for those who had donated their blood to my dad. I know if it hadn’t been for the donors of the blood my dad received, he wouldn’t be here with me today.
 

The Red Cross also changed my sister’s life when she was hired by the organization. For the first time ever, she was actually talking about having a career and enjoying her work. I remember how happy she was to find a job she actually wanted after being between jobs and searching for so long. It was due to this new eagerness and enthusiasm that she has decided to start taking college level courses again, after dropping out of college many years back.

 

I knew that while giving blood is truly great, I could do more to give back. What I never expected from volunteering was that I would actually get so much out of it. As a recent college graduate, it was an amazing feeling to be in a room with people who have been balancing out their professional careers and still attending meetings and committing to helping the Red Cross. I knew that this sense of giving back, despite having a demanding schedule, was a goal I wanted for my future.

 

Now that I’ve secured my first job in my field, I still intend to continue my involvement with the Red Cross for many years to come. Hopefully I can one day inspire a young volunteer the way that many have inspired me. Learn about volunteer opportunities here.

 

Thanks to volunteer Steven Nyeste for this post.