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A view from NYC PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Ryle   
Monday, December 03, 2012 11:11 PM

If you have ever been to New York City you will understand how divergent the population is. I found this to be very true in the current relief effort. I came to work in shelters. This is an area I have a bit of knowledge and quite a bit of Red Cross training.

When I attended the orientation on my first morning in the City that never sleeps I found that they were in desperate need of truck drivers. It seems that there are very few people that are willing to drive in New York City.

I like to drive trucks so I decided that this was what I was going to do. I was whisked away to a distribution site that is located at Aquaduct Race Track. The American Red Cross had taken over a huge parking lot and set up our distribution of bulk goods, Emergency Response Vehicles for feeding and a Southern Baptist’s kitchen.

I was assigned to drive a box truck and deliver bulk goods, such as blankets, coolers with food, diapers, baby food, tarps, water, clean up kits, etc. to areas affected by the storm.

Two of us would set out for a designated area with a truck load of bulk goods and offer them to disaster victims. Included is a picture with my “co-pilot” Bram who helped me navigate through Queens and Brooklyn.

I witnessed areas like Rockaway Beach that were on the outer edge of Queens County and faced the worst of this storm. If you look at pictures of houses that were on these beaches you will see that the water was 6- to 8-feet deep as it passed over the land. 

Cars are lined up on the street with phone numbers and owners names painted on them. They are being towed to the junkyard as they were drowned for many hours in salt water. Everything was soaked in salt water for many hours.

You can see the physical devastation on many websites and through the media. What I saw and witnessed cannot be expressed in photos. I saw many people with vacant looks on their faces. Helplessness has taken over their lives. It is getting cold. So many people had no insurance or anywhere to retreat.

Even those who have insurance are going to have to find a new place to live for a while. They lost everything. Many not only lost their homes but also where they worked and depended to earn a living. The storm spared nothing. Despair is everywhere.

It makes me proud to say that I am a part of the American Red Cross. I was able to reach out to these people with a few things that would help get them through. Other Red Cross workers, over 6,000 to date, are out talking with these folks giving them assistance with their mental health and medical needs, and ERV trucks taking out hot meals.

I believe the number was around 6 million meals that we have served to date.  And we continue. Many of these people just need to tell their story. I heard many stories from victims.

At the beginning I spoke of the divergent population I listened to people tell their story in Spanish, Russian, Creole and many other languages. I don’t speak all these languages, but you can understand the story by seeing their face and hearing the expression in their voices. Every story is unique with the storyteller putting their passion and pain into it. Much pain right now and they will all break your heart.

But there is another side: Americans are a tough and resilient people. A lot of people that I spoke with were making plans to rebuild. Many others were planning to relocate, but most are beginning to have a plan to rebuild their lives.

The American Red Cross was created to offer people Immediate help in the event of a disaster. We believe that we can make a difference to these folks, to get them through the despair, hopelessness, and feeling of loss.  We are making progress.

I have worked at least 12 hours a day for the last couple of weeks. I have agreed to stay on and help for another week. I am tired.

However, when I start to feel sorry for myself, I think about the people I have met and the smiles on their faces when they see that we care, and I am rejuvenated.

I know many people want to help and don’t know exactly what to do. I ask that you donate to the American Red Cross. We are funded entirely by donations. We receive no funding from the government. We work hand in hand with FEMA, but are not funded by them.

We have been around since 1881 when Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in her apartment. We are also accepting volunteers, although you won’t have the training to help in this effort, you will still be joining a group of people that want to help others. And there will be other disasters. House fires, floods, tornados, etc. are a fact of life.

The American Red Cross will be there to help.

John Ryle is the executive director of the American Red Cross’ Southeastern Indiana Chapter. This chapter serves Ripley, Dearborn, Ohio, and Switzerland counties. Their address is 539 Main St., Lawrenceburg, IN 47025. They have a satellite office in Osgood. Feel free to call 1-812-537-9036 with any questions or to volunteer.