“My mother was a volunteer; she worked for FEMA on a temporary basis. When there was a major disaster anywhere in the United States, she was called upon to respond. She came back after some major responses and told me incredible stories about her experience and the people that she worked with and how rewarding it was for her.
After she passed away, I went to my local American Red Cross chapter in Queens, and I interviewed as a Disaster Services volunteer. And one night on duty turned into two nights on duty, to three nights on duty a week. I was eagerly learning more about the field, responding to disasters, helping people in their time of need, the amazing volunteers that I worked with, it was all new and exciting to me. I became a team captain. I was hooked immediately.
On the day of 9/11, we received reports about the first plane crashing into the first tower and I ended up driving down to the World Trade Center site with the director of the Disaster Services at that time, Virginia Mewborn, and one of my colleagues, Luis Avila, met us down there. We were talking with the New York City Office of Emergency Management, the fire department, and other responding agencies, but we weren’t there gawking and looking at what was happening. Certainly, we had an awareness of what was going on around us, but we were mission focused. It was us trying to figure out, how was the Greater New York chapter going to be a part of the response? How are we going to help the victims? How are we going to help the family members of the victims?
And that's what led us into the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center that morning, looking for a room where we could set up a family assistance center. And we happened to be in the Winter Garden when the first tower came down. We ran outside of that building back towards the water. Being focused on our mission that morning actually saved our lives. That's what I've come to realize. So not allowing yourself to stray too far out of your lane and start doing things that aren't within your immediate mission are really crucial to the success of your operation and your response.
I remember coming back from the towers, the destruction downtown, and you could barely walk across the plaza at the Greater New York chapter, because there were that many people that were waiting online to find out how could they help, where could they make a donation, where could they donate blood, how could they sign up to be volunteers. For the days, weeks, months following the events of that day, people came together. We were one Red Cross in the true meaning of the word that day.
That was the largest response that we had ever been a part of, but we had our day-to-day operation that needed to continue. There were still residential fires, and other incidents that were happening the day of 9/11. There were a number of people that were assigned to the immediate response to the events of 9/11, and the rest of us remained focus on our day-to-day mission.
I wanted to work in the 9/11 operation. To say I wasn't a little disappointed would be a lie. But at that moment, I also understood that our day-to-day work was as important. The Greater New York chapter was one of the busiest chapters from a day-to-day perspective in the country. And that didn't change following the events of 9/11. So, I took my assignment. I knew what my mission was, and I was proud to be able to support the chapter along with my colleagues on the days after.
Right now, I'm the emergency operations coordinator for the National Transportation Safety Board. We respond to transportation disasters across the country. We work with local state and federal agencies in their planning and training for a family assistance operation in the aftermath of a mass casualty incident.
One of the things that I love about this position is that the NTSB has a partnership with the American Red Cross National headquarters. I still work very closely with the American Red Cross. It's a great feeling to go onsite of a major transportation accident and see Red Crossers out there and be able to introduce myself as a former Red Crosser, and still do amazing work with them.
I think what really prepared me for this position, gave me the experience, the training, and just the resume to be chosen, is the 10 years that I spent in emergency management or disaster services in New York, working at the American Red Cross with an incredible group of people. I don't know if there's anywhere else in the country that you can get the same level of experience. Everything from residential fires to manhole explosions, water main breaks, you name it, it happens in New York City, and the American Red Cross, and our mission is to help people in need.” –Max Green