NEW YORK DISASTER VOLUNTEERS

Daily Point of Light # 2565 Dec 4, 2003

For more than 80 years, volunteers from Morgan-Lawrence County Chapter of the American Red Cross have been providing relief to victims of disaster in Morgan and Lawrence Counties, in the state of Alabama and across the nation. Currently, 69 disaster volunteers continue to take training, participate in local drills, maintain the Chapter disaster plan, survey shelters, update merchant agreements and work with other organizations active in disaster so their community is prepared for emergencies. These same trained volunteers respond to local emergencies such as single-family fires, search and rescues, chemical spills, small plane crashes, commercial fires, windstorms and more.

While most reeled in shock and horror at the unimaginable events of September 11th, 10 selfless Red Cross trained disaster volunteers from Decatur responded without a single thought to their own personal safety or the magnitude of this tragedy. Providing disaster nursing, mass care, family service and logistical support, Judy Smith, Karen Butler, Pam Galbreath, Sandra Cross, Linda Smith, Earl Haygood, Linda Robinson, Judy Hawkins, Charles Sanford and Alice Wilkerson spent two to four weeks in New York city.

They worked 12-hour days with families of victims, rescue workers, people displaced from their homes or those whose employment was impacted by the attacks on the World Trade Center. These volunteers made their way to New York as soon as air travel was resumed. Because of the uniqueness of the disaster, their training only provided only a basis for what they faced. The experience was different and the volunteers had to be flexible. Because of the heart-wrenching emotion and extreme stress, the disaster nurses were cycled out and returned home after two weeks. They had provided nursing care to family members waiting for word on their loved ones and to rescue workers, devastated by the scarcity of survivors.

You cannot estimate the impact that the American Red Cross volunteers had on the other rescue workers and family members. They gave countless hours of willingly donated time, compassion, hugs and tears, a shoulder to cry on and someone to listen. The challenge for volunteers was to maintain professionalism and to do their jobs while faced with constant stress and turmoil.

Each of the Decatur volunteers made an extreme sacrifice to help some people they did not know. They had to leave their family for at least two weeks, travel across the country and work strenuous 12+days under emotionally devastating conditions. Each one returned home to continue the local disaster work in which they were previously involved in and to participate in further disaster training.

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