As a long-time American Red Cross employee, emergencies and disasters were
not new to me. Friends and family know that I am keenly aware of impending
weather and the status of world-wide natural disasters, and don’t leave home
without a call list and an extra set of clothes.
Sept. 11, however, was beyond the scope of any preparedness I could have
envisioned. Sure, my staff and I responded immediately by doing our jobs and
focusing on those in need. We were moved by the compassion of those who wanted
to help in some way. Personally, I relied on my dear neighbors to pick up my son
as my husband was on business travel in a remote area of Idaho.
It wasn’t until I tried to explain to my then 4-year-old son, some 24 hours
after the towers had come down, why Mommy had to work and he wouldn’t see me for
a little while. That moment, when all of the pent up emotion welled up in me, he
clearly articulated why I go to work at the Red Cross each day: "It’s OK, Mommy.
I know the Red Cross has to help people." It got me through those many long days
and sleepless nights.
The awfulness of Sept. 11, clearly brought out the best in many Arlingtonians.
Volunteers kept walking in the door willing to do anything and everything.
Financial contributions came in every size imaginable. People who had never
donated blood before were rolling up their sleeves to meet a need that, sadly,
did not turn out to be needed.
Finally, our "be prepared" message seemed relevant and was being taken
seriously. Organizations big and small wanted to know what they needed to do to
ready themselves and their businesses. My neighbors checked with me to make sure
their "kits" had all the necessary supplies. We provided information to schools
to enable them to share age-appropriate information when we are "facing fear."
Now, five years later, it’s difficult to recruit volunteers for the local, less
publicized disasters. Blood donations are at a critically low supply, and our
preparedness message seems to be ignored by many. Since we never know what
tomorrow will bring, I encourage residents to talk with their families and make
a plan, consider how you might help your community and be thankful you live in a
community that steps up to the challenge when needed.