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When the Unimaginable Happens

We are respecting people ‘needs’ beyond what is being said. We ask questions to connect them with resources they may not even think about.

If resilience is defined as the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity, then #OrlandoUnited should become a footnote in the next dictionary.

On the morning of Sunday, June 12th, a lone gunman killed 49 nightclub patrons and injured dozens more—sending shockwaves throughout the nation.

American Red Cross volunteers on the ground in Central Florida sprang into action immediately. Within hours, Red Cross workers across the country were en route to Orlando. With any mass casualty incident, it takes a special personality to support strangers as neighbors and to provide an emotional roadmap through disbelief, anger, grief, and acceptance in order to help them find a path to heal.

The Red Cross activates licensed Mental Health professionals and Spiritual Care advisors to provide support for not only victims but also for biological families, for chosen families, and for Red Cross workers on the front lines.

One of these Red Cross workers is Amy Decker from Jacksonville, Florida. Amy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice who has also served as a Red Cross volunteer for 23-years.

Since arriving in Orlando, Amy has been a steady force in the Family Assistance Center (FAC). The FAC is centralized for victims’ families, for those physically injured, and for people with emotional trauma. While some partners at the FAC provide physical support (lodging, flights, food, legal support, etc.) a caring team of Red Crossers are the shoulder to lean on for both children and adults.

For children, this can be a very confusing time. They may ponder or ask “Why is Mommy crying? Why isn’t my brother coming home? What’s an angel?” These young lives have special needs. Children Disaster Services provides specialized interactions to normalize and process their feelings and emotions. Red Cross workers use interactive tools, which the casual observer would say are toys. Together, the professionals and children work through specific and intentional ‘play’ to break-through emotional walls.

For adults, Amy explains that “We are respecting people ‘needs’ beyond what is being said. We ask questions to connect them with resources they may not even think about. It really excites me that we identify ‘unspoken needs’ and, through community partnerships, resources are available immediately. Not just a referral – but a person who is here listening. There is no better model for people in need.”

Amy considers herself tremendously grateful to have the skills, desire and time to sit with people as they suffer. “For many, if they absorb the pain and anguish of those around them, this wouldn’t be a good climate to work. Especially in the first few days, if we focus on our client’s pain and suffering in the moment, we will fail to see the bigger picture of the incredible resilient individual that they are. Their emotional state is not what they are; it’s the situation. Our support moves them forward. Today we are holding a light knowing [that] tomorrow they may be holding the light.” This positive attitude is years of professional experience and positive results in business; fostered through volunteering.

“Let your mind be open and your heart be even and then you are present. That’s the way to walk the walk and serve others. When we are truly present, we see and honor the resiliency of the clients we’re serving.” - Amy Decker

#OrlandoUnited #OrlandoStrong

Photo Credit: Roberto Baltodano