American Red Cross worker Steve Palm was at the public memorial for the Orlando shooting victims distributing water, tissues and sunscreen, when he noticed a gentleman holding a flag.
“This is a beautiful rainbow flag. May we take a photo with you?” Palm inquired. He also shared how the Red Cross is an impartial and neutral organization, making no discrimination nationality, race, religious beliefs, etc. “We’re here to support humanity.”
The flag owner responded that he’d love to take a photo together. “I just found out something horrible,” he added.
As cameras clicked away, Palm gave the flag bearer a supportive embrace. “He really needed to be hugged. It seemed like the most natural thing I could do,” said Palm.
As he stepped away, Palm noticed several people around them had tears in their eyes and immediately came up and started hugging the man with the flag.
He was no longer grieving alone.
A Network of Critical Assistance
After the Orlando shooting, the Red Cross convened and collaborated with 37 agencies to create a Family Assistance Center (FAC), in conjunction with the City of Orlando and the FBI Office of Victims Assistance. This serves as an inclusive, confidential and safe environment for people affected by the shooting.
Amy Decker, a licensed mental health professional and Red Cross worker, traveled from Jacksonville to support the community. “What’s happening is with the love and support of the country and world,” Decker shared. “We dig a little deeper into each situation. It’s as if we peeled back the layers of complexity.”
Services in the FAC include air travel, child and family services, consulates, counseling, spiritual care, funeral services, crime victim services, health care, ground transportation, identification documents, translations, legal aid, lodging, medical examiner and senior services.
One family of four brothers visited a partner agency in the FAC with a goal to return their slain brother’s body to Mexico.
After four hours and help from 27 agencies, the family found closure. All four brothers will be able to accompany their brother’s remains back to Mexico so their parents can plan a proper burial.
This outcome is possible through airline partnerships for pro-bono flights, immigration officials for reentrance back into the country and legal aid. The family is empowered with knowledge and provided with hotel rooms, food assistance, a shoulder to lean on and so much more.
“The brothers left in peace,” Decker shared.
Content compiled and edited from material written by Barbara Behling, Roberto Baltodano and Donna Morrissey