Seventeen years ago this week, an explosion in downtown Oklahoma City killed 168 people and destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. At the time, it was the worst act of domestic terrorism to occur on U.S. soil.
More than 8,000 American Red Cross workers responded to the truck bombing. Among them was a 5-year-old girl who was eager to be in the middle of it all. It would be the beginning of her Red Cross career as a volunteer.
“I remember being at school when it happened,” said Skye Mellow. “Mom showed up at the school and picked me up. I knew something bad happened and people were hurt and I knew it was close to home.”
Mellow recalls being inside the Oklahoma City Red Cross office not long after the attack. Her mother, Patti Mellow, was – and still is – a Red Cross board member and volunteer. “She took me and my brother to the office with her and we were put to work,” said Mellow. “We were trying to be helpful, stuffing food, snacks and drinks into boxes. I now know we were doing mass care and getting ready to set up a canteen for first responders.”Skye Mellow has been helping the Red Cross since she was five years old. She says helping others is a trait that runs deep in her family.
In 1999, when Mellow was only nine years old, she was back in the Red Cross office, answering phones following a massive F-5 tornado that tore through the Oklahoma City area. “Phones were ringing off the hook and people were begging for information. People wrote down what I should say. I was so focused on those scripts because I didn’t want to give out wrong information,” said Mellow, who admits being disappointed because she was still in the office and not out in the devastated neighborhoods. “I was excited because I was doing more than the last time, but I still wanted to be out there helping others,” she said.
Mellow, now 22, is finally getting that chance. She is currently training to become a member of the Disaster Action Team for the Central and Western Oklahoma Region of the Red Cross. Her Red Cross resume already includes home fires, shelter operations and a police standoff. “It’s been really good experience, more than I have ever expected,” she said.
Mellow is going to school to become a paramedic and plans to continue her training and education as a disaster response volunteer with the Red Cross. She says helping others is simply a trait that runs deep in her family.
She’s quick to stress the importance of volunteering. “I think it’s the one opportunity when no one judges you. There isn’t a question of whether or not you’re successful or wealthy or educated or this or that. You’re there to help and everyone accepts you. Someone has to do it. Why not you?”
The Red Cross has many different opportunities and depends on its volunteers to accomplish its mission. Volunteers make up more than 96 percent of our workforce. Want to know more about becoming a Red Cross volunteer? Contact your local chapter or visit the Volunteer Match section of our web site to learn more about ways you can help people through the American Red Cross.