“I actually started as a youth volunteer in 1995. In 2000, I became a customer service assistant at the Queens office. My job was to take care of the day-to-day operations at the Queens area office. When you're a 20-year-old, you're just thinking it’s a job that didn't pay well. But once 9/11 happened, my peripheral just opened up, like a total 360. It was one of those a-ha moments where I finally figured out this is what the Red Cross does and it's amazing how they do it. We are the soldiers of humanity.
This was my first taste of getting into this type of disaster operations, transitioning from community outreach to disaster operations.
Shea Stadium, which is now Citi Field, became a respite center for 9/11 rescue workers that were coming in from all over the country. The Mets organization allowed us to bring in cots and blankets and create a rehab area where people could take a shower, rest up, and then be bused back to Ground Zero. Our volunteers, including myself went to Shea Stadium to assist with the operations over there.
When you see the work we do, whether it be physical, such as providing sheltering and staffing a respite center to even mental health. Mental health was not something I even thought of as a young person, but after 9/11, I realized the mental health aspect of things, of how it can affect an individual, including myself.”
“We worked with really great disaster mental health workers, and they really opened my eyes because of the young volunteers we had. A lot of our volunteers came from Stuyvesant High School, which was in the impact zone of 9/11. Most of them saw things they probably shouldn’t have seen at the World Trade Center. As they evacuated the building, the towers had already crumbled and as they were running, the dust was just chasing them. That type of traumatic experience, when you're dealing with 14- to 18-year-olds, some of them were sleepless. There was sadness, but there was also a lot of hate. We had one individual of the Muslim faith and he was afraid of going out in public.
Mental Health came and said this is something we have to deal with. This is a great opportunity to get all the youngsters in and we had several sessions of like 25 to 30 people. We had an open discussion about what happened and how does everyone feel. It was a good session for them to decompress and when you saw the eyes of those individuals, we changed the lives of those youngsters. I think if we didn't intervene then, their negativity would probably have impacted their lives today.
After doing my time at the Queens chapter, I went over to Disaster Services in staffing. I went into logistics and field communications, and the communication part was really my thing. I was really into radio operations. Technology was something I really wanted to get into. My logistics and field communications experience is the reason why I was hired over at New York City OEM.
9/11 opened an opportunity for me to understand the emergency response aspect of it. And that is why I'm pretty much here now at this agency. I’m now the program manager of our emergency support center here in New York City. It was an evolution in my career.”