Waking up before dawn, Rosielee Crosley and Ellen “Tiki” Dellamora would drive an American Red Cross mobile feeding unit to two different locations to collect supplies before setting out to the site of the Oso, Washington, landslide.
The two veteran volunteers of the Red Cross Santa Cruz County Chapter have been at the scenes of some of the nation’s most tragic disasters, including local responses at the Loma Prieta earthquake and San Bruno explosion. But the March 22 landslide, which killed 42 people with one person still missing, has left the biggest impact.
“Emotionally, this was the hardest deployment I have ever been on,” said Rosielee.
At the site of the landslide, Tiki and Rosielee delivered hot water and coffee to a Red Cross tent set up for rescue workers. The hot drinks provided warmth in an otherwise cold, damp, and mud-caked environment. Even with gloves on, Tiki said, she couldn’t feel her hands after five minutes.
“And yet, despite the cold, these people were digging through the freezing mud—sometimes using their hands,” she said of the search and rescue workers.
“Their faces were so peaceful and kind,” Rosielee said. “They were so committed to finding all of the missing.”
Tiki and Rosielee had bonded in a previous response, while assisting those affected by the Big Sur Pfeiffer Fire at the end of 2013. Having each other to lean on enabled the duo to endure the devastation they witnessed, and renew their commitment to helping others.
“There were moments when I struggled to take a breath, and Tiki would say something unusual, which would strike me as funny, and I was able to take deep breaths and let go,” said Rosielee. “She is like a sister to me in my heart. I just admire her so much.”
For Tiki, small things outside of the disaster zone—a smiling child, a handmade card, sunshine—kept her grounded.
“I am honored to be asked to go,” Tiki said. “I’m just so proud to be part of the Red Cross. I know, in my own way, I gave what I could.”
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