Just as the waters have receded and the clean-up process has started for so many residents throughout Madison, Oneida and Herkimer counties, so have the thoughts and emotions of my first disaster response ebbed.
The emotions that for days swung like a pendulum as I sorted out all the devastation that had occurred, have now settled and I can reflect on those three weeks – three weeks that have forever changed my life as well as the lives of those who endured so much loss.
As our volunteers gathered and prepared to start the journey assisting those whose homes were damaged or destroyed by the floods, I could never have imagined the gratification and immense satisfaction one can receive from helping those in need.
Neither would I have ever realized the friendships and camaraderie that I would experience in bonding with fellow volunteers; volunteers with a common goal, and shared motivation, to achieve that goal.
With each day, no matter how long the previous one was, came renewed vigor and wanting to help in any little part of recovery that we could. Dinner was always at a late hour, and as each one of us made our way to bed each night, we knew and felt anticipation that we would be back at it in a short while. And that was ok because it’s what we do best!
Nightly newscasts warned of more flooding, and we knew we could not leave until we had done all we could for those affected. Those folks needed to sense a return of some normalcy, and we provided it, with great pleasure.
This pleasure was reinforced one day as a fellow volunteer and I walked through a store wearing our Red Cross vests. We were approached by two wonderful ladies just wanting to thank us, and they told us how much it meant to see Red Cross presence throughout the area. The smiles on their faces put a smile on mine, and in that moment, I knew that this was what it was all about.
As our time wound down, strong emotions kicked in. Mostly a tremendous sense of satisfaction knowing we made a difference in thousands of lives. At the same time, I also felt sadness as I said goodbye to my new extended family of fellow volunteers. We had forged bonds, never to be broken, and shared so many moments and memories that will forever have a permanent place in my heart. The services we provided will forever bring great pride and happiness.
The waters have receded, but the memory will linger forever!