The American Red Cross response to Superstorm Sandy has included food, shelter, supplies and other support, including reuniting people with loved ones through the Red Cross Safe and Well program. Here are a few stories of how the Red Cross helped people find each other after the storm.
SPECIAL NEEDS Life is stressful for everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy, but for one couple who are hearing impaired, that stress was multiplied. Marvin and Blanche were at the Nassau Community College in Garden City and wanted to get a message to their daughter, Sue, that they were safe. With the assistance of several students, Red Cross Safe and Well volunteer Lisa helped make that happen. The couple was nervous about using the online Safe and Well program so Lisa tried to call their daughter, whose phone wasn’t working because of a power outage. Lisa then discovered the daughter was a school teacher and called her school to let her know her parents were safe at the shelter. The next day, Sue’s husband, Joe, arrived at the shelter to take his in-laws to his home until theirs can be repaired. As the couple gathered their belongings, Marvin wrote on a note pad to Lisa, “You’re my angel.”
WAR ZONE As a veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq, Red Cross Safe and Well volunteer Joe is familiar with the stress that comes with being in a war zone. When he learned that a fellow soldier in Afghanistan was worried about her father, Paul, he made it his mission to find the Rockaways man. Joe was moved at the thought that someone facing a war also had to worry about a family member back home.
As Joe drove to the Rockaways address he had been given for Paul, he was amazed at the devastation along the peninsula. He knew firsthand what a real war zone looked like and was stunned to discover the similarities in neighborhoods damaged by Sandy. Joe was able to find Paul, and promised to let his soldier-daughter know that he was safe and well. As Joe explained to Paul how the Safe and Well program worked, it occurred to him how easily he could have been in the same position as Paul’s daughter—fighting a war a half a world away, and not knowing if a family member was okay. Red Cross volunteers like Joe help to ease the minds of families both here and abroad.
DETERMINED TO FIND JO “Josephine B” was the only information Red Cross Safe and Well volunteer Leanne had to start with. That, and the name and phone number of the person who was looking for her “Great-Aunt Jo.” Leanne called the number and got a few more details—Jo was Italian, 86 years old, 4’6” tall, with a small build and limited vision. By the time Leanne had a full name and phone number, a week had passed since the storm and Jo’s family was frantic. A neighbor was able to report that Jo had been evacuated, but no one knew what shelter she had gone to, or who had taken her there.
As Leanne made her rounds of the shelters, she was on the lookout for anyone matching Jo’s description. Finally, a nurse recognized Jo, but reported that she had been taken home by a friend. When Leanne called Jo’s house, there was no answer, so she asked the local police to do a wellness check. The officers reported that there was no answer when they knocked at Jo’s door. Leanne was able to reach the friend who had dropped Jo off, who said, “She’s home, I just talked to her 30 minutes ago.” This time, when Leanne called, Jo answered.
Jo told Leanne that she was home when the police knocked, but she didn’t answer. She thought that they must have the wrong house, because she “knew she hadn’t done anything wrong.” Leanne told her the police had been checking on her because her family was so worried. Jo, surprised, said, “Well, they shouldn’t be. I’ve been taking care of myself for 86 years and I’m not going to stop now.”
FRANTIC ABOUT MOM Sally knew that she was okay after Superstorm Sandy passed through her neighborhood, but two weeks after the storm, her daughters still hadn’t heard from her. Chris and Betty, two volunteers with the American Red Cross Safe and Well program, were on hand to help make the connection.
The two found Sally’s apartment, on the fourth floor of a building with no power and no elevators. Sally, a tiny elderly woman, opened the door when Betty and Chris knocked. They told Sally that her family was worried about her. She hadn’t wanted to bother them, she explained, as they were busy with their jobs and the grandchildren.
The Red Cross volunteers confirmed that Sally’s daughters did indeed want very much to talk to her. Her landline phone wasn’t working, and Sally said she didn’t know how to work those “other little things,” cell phones. Chris and Betty called Sally’s daughter, who wept tears of relief to know their mother was safe. She said her sister was on a plane from Florida and would be there in the afternoon.
RELIEF OPERATION ONGOING The Red Cross continues to provide food, water, health services and emotional support to people affected by Hurricane Sandy’s devastation. To date, Red Cross workers have served more than eleven million meals and snacks and continue to distribute food today. The Red Cross has also distributed 6.9 million relief items like blankets and clean-up supplies and provided more than 110,000 health and mental health services.