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Disaster Can Change Someone’s Life in Seconds


People are slowly returning to their devastated neighborhoods across the south, gathering what little remains after the weekend’s deadly tornadoes. The American Red Cross is supporting them, making sure they have food to eat, a safe place to stay, and someone to listen.

Meanwhile, all eyes in Texas are on the wildfires which have been burning for days and have destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres. Red Cross disaster workers have been on the ground in Texas since the fires began, helping people who are forced from their homes and making sure emergency responders have food and water.

Hundreds of Red Cross disaster workers and nearly 50 Red Cross emergency response vehicles have fanned out across the wildfire and tornado disaster scenes, opening shelters and feeding those affected. The Red Cross is distributing personal hygiene items and materials to help with the clean-up and has served more than 43,000 meals and snacks in the last week and a half with the support of community partners.

Many people had little warning before the tornadoes swept through their community. One North Carolina mother and her family have lost everything but the clothes on their backs.

The Red Cross is a blessing to this family

Gilda Brisbon and her family know what it’s like to be homeless. But when they moved into their home in Raleigh, North Carolina three years ago, they thought that those days were behind them. That all changed on Saturday when their home was destroyed by a tornado and they lost everything but the clothes on their backs.

“My daughter Brittany was home alone when it hit,” said Brisbon. “I had heard the warning sirens and was hurrying to get home. I looked at my watch and it was 3:31 P.M. when I saw the black funnel cloud coming right at me.” She took refuge in a nearby friend’s house with her grandson Anthony, struggling to keep the door closed against the storm.

At their home, daughter Brittany saw the lights flicker on and off, felt the house shake and heard the sounds of the storm. She took refuge in the laundry room, miraculously suffering only minor cuts and bruises. The tornado demolished all of the Brisbon home but the kitchen and laundry room.

“It rained very hard for about five or ten minutes, and then everything got quiet,” she said. “I ran from the house to find my mother, and had to climb over many trees that were knocked down. The houses on either side of ours were untouched, but ours was destroyed.”

The Brisbon’s spent the weekend at the nearby house of their friend, Latesha Winston and her two children. Power was out in the entire neighborhood, however, so when they heard that there was an American Red Cross shelter open, they all took refuge there.

Red Cross Shelter Manager Judy Cox said many of the families staying at the shelter have similar stories. They have lost power, some have had their homes destroyed, and all are extremely grateful for the Red Cross help in their time of trial.

“This is the first time that we have ever stayed at a Red Cross shelter,” Brisbon said. “All of your people are so kind to us and treat us wonderfully. The Red Cross is really a blessing, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Brisbon and her family are not sure what they will do next. Their home has been condemned and they must now find a new place to live, but they have been through tough times before and are positive that they will make it through this challenge that life has thrown at them.

How you can help

The Red Cross depends on financial donations to get help to people affected by disasters. Please consider making a donation today to help to those in need. 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.