Volunteers Provide Comfort, Support to SFO Crash Passengers

Debbie Pascale - Volunteers Provide Comfort, Support to SFO Crash Passengers
“It was so gratifying to watch the many teenagers dive into the food as soon as we set it on the counter. It was a nice reminder of the many simple ways we can support people.” - Pascale Vermont

When the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 incident occurred on July 6 at the San Francisco International Airport, American Red Cross Disaster Mental Health support service volunteers Pascale Vermont and Debbie Liscurse were ready to help. With the aid of Korean and Chinese translators, Pascale and Debbie supported some of the 305 individuals affected by the incident as they experienced a roller coaster of emotions.

Red Cross volunteers are trained to pitch in wherever necessary, often beyond their assigned roles. When these two mental health professionals were asked to help get food, they headed to Subway in the airport’s Domestic Terminal 3.

When they arrived, they found 20 customers waiting in line and only one employee making sandwiches. That is when Debbie and Pascale rolled up their sleeves and got to work. With the three of them working together, they cleared the line quickly.

“Debbie and I washed up, put gloves on, and made sandwiches for 100,” Pascale said. “It was so gratifying to watch the many teenagers dive into the food as soon as we set it on the counter. It was a nice reminder of the many simple ways we can support people.”

She added that physical comforts like water and food help people relax, so they can begin to work through their emotions. As the passengers started eating, they settled down, creating a calmer atmosphere.

Pascale remembered the happiness of parents reuniting with their children at the airport.

“They knew the kids were fine, but they just needed to see that and hold them,” she said, tearing up as she recalled the moments of parents hugging children.

“Each disaster is another affirmation of how much the Red Cross is needed, and how rewarding this work is,” Debbie said

They added that anyone can volunteer–interested people just need to take a few Red Cross classes and have personal empathy to be with people in times of need, no matter what type of emergency or disaster it is. Debbie and Pascale demonstrated those skills in their work for the Asiana Airlines incident response.

Learn more about becoming a Red Cross Volutneer at redcross.org/support/volunteer or contact your local chapter.