By Robert Bernstein
The late July rains that fell on Central Appalachia led to deadly flooding that devastated parts of eastern Kentucky. Early estimates were of more than 1400 severely damaged or destroyed homes with areas cut off due to damaged roads and bridges.
The American Red Cross responded to the disaster alongside regional, state, and local partners. Nearly 400 trained Red Cross disaster workers were on the ground in Kentucky after the floods to help to provide a safe place to stay, food to eat, critical relief supplies and emotional support for those affected by this tragedy.
The Greater New York Region sent a team of disaster response specialists. Among those who deployed were Vivian Moy, from the Long Island Chapter and James Sorenson from the Greater New York Chapter (New York City). Both individuals had previously deployed to national disasters. Both also have completed a lot of disaster response training, crucial to support the relief operation.
Vivian has previously responded to national disasters including 2018 California Wildfires, Hurricane Florence, and Hurricane Dorian. Her area of expertise is setting up and managing sheltering and food distribution. Vivian also has public affairs experience, and enjoys capturing photos and stories from the residents she helps. When not deployed, she volunteers with the Home Fire Preparedness Campaign.
James has extensive experience in deployments for both the Red Cross as well as other organizations. He is a seasoned logistician and a former US Navy Seabee. During his time in Kentucky, he focused on organizing and warehousing incoming supplies as part of the logistics team.
Vivian worked in a shelter in Whitesburg, Kentucky. She spent considerable time getting to know the families assigned there and developed a strong bond with these folks.
Vivian shared, “Kentuckians have the strongest sense of community I have ever seen. The families in my shelter have lost everything yet they still continue to look out and support one another as best they can. Some have even saved each other's life.”
James was positioned at a warehouse established to efficiently prepare supplies for distribution. He said that there were a variety of items from blankets and cots to flashlights, batteries, and clean-up kits. While James has previously participated in delivery of supplies, on this deployment his focus was ensuring that shelters had all the required items to keep residents comfortable and the kits were ready to go.
The deployment left an indelible memory for both individuals.
For James it was the state of the local roads after having traveled on US Interstate Highways. He described the smaller roads as very hilly … He saw cones on some roads and just beyond there was a drop-off of some depth. He knew that traversing them post disaster would be challenging.
James also saw the scale of the flooding by observing the tenacity of the local population. These were rural areas with populations not having access to vehicles, so they traveled on foot for miles to obtain assistance.
As Vivian prepared to leave Kentucky after her two-week deployment concluded, she visited the local area to observe firsthand the damage. She understood that this event left deep wounds, but the disaster has brought together disparate organization to provide aid from the National Guard, ASPCA, University of Kentucky medical practitioners and local churches. This led her to observe that despite the terrible consequences, there was a silver lining as well.
For James, the gift that he receives from assisting in a deployment is the response of the population served, “You can see the gleam in the eye of someone receiving water or a cleaning kit.” He added succinctly, “We do it because we care.”
Currently the Red Cross responds to major disasters on the average of every ten days.
What is clear is that with responders like Vivian and James, these communities are in good hands as they continue their recovery.
To join the Red Cross and help support communities impacted by disasters big and small, visit www.redcross.org/gnyvolunteer