Johnstown, PA — This year’s local observance of Red Cross Month will evoke one of the national organization’s greatest early achievements – its five-month service in helping the victims of the 1889 Johnstown Flood.
American Red Cross, Keystone Chapter and Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region, are partnering with the Johnstown Area Heritage Association on a commemorative lighting of Johnstown’s Stone Bridge in animated red and white lights from March 6 – 10.
“What better image to reflect our continuing service to the residents of Johnstown and beyond?” commented Colleen Sherman, executive director of the Keystone Chapter. “The theme of this year’s Red Cross Month observance, Everyday Heroes, calls to mind the heroic efforts during the 1889 flood and the contributions of generous volunteers, blood drive sponsors, blood donors and financial supporters who help us assist those in need today.”
March was first proclaimed as Red Cross Month 70 years ago by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Since 1943, every president, including President Obama, has designated March as Red Cross Month. The Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters a year in this country, providing shelter, food, emotional support and other necessities to those affected. It provides 24-hour support to members of the military, veterans and their families – in war zones, military hospitals and on military installations around the world; collects and distributes about 40 percent of the nation’s blood supply and trains more than seven million people in first aid, water safety and other life-saving skills every year.
Last year in the 100-county Greater Alleghenies Region, headquartered in Richland Township, a total of 194,051 blood and platelet products were donated, including 14,466 products given by Cambria and Somerset county residents.
The Keystone Chapter, serving Cambria and Somerset counties, responded to 52 local emergencies involving 70 families comprising 189 individuals; assisted 101 military families; and trained more than 6,000 people in lifesaving skills.
Although the Stone Bridge was damaged in the 1889 Johnstown Flood, it remained intact. Some 100,000 tons of debris carried by the floodwaters was blocked by the bridge as the water continued downstream. Many people who somehow survived the floodwaters were trapped in the debris. Tragically, a fire broke out in the acres of debris, killing many of the trapped flood victims.
Today, the Stone Bridge remains a highly visible landmark, spanning Routes 403 and 56, which together constitute the most heavily traveled corridor in Cambria County with a measured daily traffic count of 15,854 vehicles. More than 25 trains also cross the bridge daily.
The Stone Bridge Lighting Project in memory of U.S. Rep John Murtha was dedicated on September 24, 2011, after a multi-year $1.2 million fundraising effort.
During the Red Cross Month observance, the bridge will be lit from 7 to 9 pm, according to Shelley Johansson. director of communications & marketing, Johnstown Area Heritage Association.
“Red Cross Month is a great time for people to become part of the Red Cross and there are many different ways to do it,” Sherman said. “They can develop a preparedness plan for their household, become a Red Cross volunteer, give blood, or take a Red Cross class, just to name a few.”
The Red Cross is not a government agency and relies on donations of time, money and blood to do its work. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs.