In the first days after the bombing, families of the injured and deceased made their way to a quiet entrance in the Seaport Hotel. There they were greeted by a Red Cross volunteer who took their names and checked in about their well being. They were asked if they could be made comfortable, and the process of recovery would begin.
The Family Assistance Center was operated with a number of partner agencies – the Red Cross with the Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance, the Attorney General’s office, FBI Victim Assistance, Boston Police Department Homicide Unit and the Boston Public Health Commission. It was not open to the public: This space, donated by the Seaport Hotel, was dedicated only to those directly affected by the blasts.
This story can only be told now, as the agencies involved kept to a strict vow to create a space where families, in private, could begin to heal.
At the center, each agency had a role to play. Families would be introduced to each agency by the Red Crosser who greeted them. Children were asked if they could play with someone from Children’s Disaster Services, someone who could engage in directed, therapeutic play. The injured themselves could turn to the Red Cross Safe and Well desk, with its registry alerting family members where a person had connected with services. Those needing help with ID or in learning how to apply for handicap placards could speak with a representative of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and members of the State Police and Boston EMS were also on hand.
Among the duties of the Red Cross in the center was staffing it with disaster mental health workers, health services personal and caseworkers who could help assess emergency needs. Those needing emergency financial assistance were aided. Those who could register with One Fund Boston were given assistance in doing so. And at the Seaport Hotel’s auditorium, family members were briefed on the investigation and the next steps the community would be taking.
Hundreds of mothers, fathers, children came though the Family Assistance Center. Meals were provided by Seaport Hotel staff, and snacks and water were served by Red Cross volunteers.