Friday, November 22, 2013

We can be your "back-up"

So I consider myself somewhat of a gym rat. I use that time to catch up on what is going on in the world, and at the same time burn off any stress or frustrations from my week. I think I may be one of the few who watch CNN and Fox News as I run on the treadmill, but there was this one day last week that made my run rather difficult. As I ran, I watched stories of the almost complete destruction of the Philippines; I ran in complete disbelief. Then this story came on the news of this man who had lost everyone in his family except for one daughter and his mother in Typhoon Haiyan. The news station had somehow been able to get a hold of his mother by phone, and as the cameras rolled the man burst into tears. He stood there crying to his mother telling her that they were all gone and then he asked “why did this happen? What did I do to deserve this?” He cried to his mother like a child begging his mother to make it all better. The scene still plays in my mind and still breaks my heart, and I also find myself asking the same question, “Why did this have to happen?” Of course there is no answer; it’s just Mother Nature or nature’s fury.
This week Mother Nature stuck again, but this time it was closer to home at least for some of my AmeriCorps teammates. Numerous tornadoes touch down on six states destroying almost everything in its path. Stories from residents describing how the sky rumbled for twenty minutes to shots of towns completely devastated. Many families in tears as they looked through the wreckage of what they once called home, and it leaves me wondering, “How? How does someone recover after such devastation?" I’m originally from Southern California, and yes we have earthquakes, but I personally have never been through anything like what I am seeing.
Yesterday, as I returned from presenting on preparedness, I was called to an apartment fire. It was my first call, so I did not know what to expect. I’m being told it’s multiple families who are now out of their home, and my heart gets heavy. Here I am wondering if my message got through to the group I just presented to and getting ready to go see Catching Fire, and now I’m being whisked off to an apartment fire. As I arrived, the fire trucks have already left, and seven families were left homeless. Some of the families will be homeless for a couple of days, but others for longer. While I was there helping the families, my mind didn’t have the time to think “how or why,” I think I had just answered my questions, or at least one question. I answered the “how.” When I entered the office of the apartment complex, our Disaster Action Team member Gary had already begun taking care of the families. He was already gathering information so we can find them a place to stay for a few nights and get them food. A volunteer, a team member, a Red Cross representative had begun to take care of the families.
When I give my presentations, I always say, “Have an emergency contact that is also your back-up. Make a plan with them, in case something happens you have each other to fall back on.” I know there are people out in the world who may think they don’t have anyone to call in case of an emergency or have a “back-up,” but they do. We, in the American Red Cross or the Red Cross Philippines or wherever in the world you may need the Red Cross, can be your “back-up.”  We can and will be there when you call. Whether it’s a home fire or Mother Nature, we can be there; we may not be able to tell you why this happened to you, but we can help you get through what has happened.
This may sound sappy and mushy, and if you know me, you know that is not how I am. But I ask you this, when you see photos of the devastation, doesn’t it break your heart? Because it breaks mine, and I’m glad the American Red Cross has my back in case I need them.

Veronica Lases
AmeriCorps NPRC Member
Preparedness Coordinator
Community Preparedness and Resilience Services

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