2 minute readDisaster
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From the American People to the American People

Below is a blog entry that Kristin Claes, a Red Cross worker from the Greater Chicago Area Chapter, wrote during her deployment to Tennessee. We are sharing it with you in hopes that it will help demonstrate how real of an impact your support and donations have on the ground.

Tennessee Floods 2010

We drove into the Delray neighborhood of Nashville looking for a woman named Wanda. She had visited with our Red Cross client caseworkers yesterday and wanted to share her story.

As soon as we turned onto her street we saw piles of debris along the curbs—shards of soggy drywall, muddy forks and spoons, folded mattresses, a wheelchair slumped on itself, children’s bikes, pages of books, envelopes, screen doors. When you look at it up close, these items are evidence of people’s lives the way there were before the flood. However, all together they are just massive heaps of trash waiting for the garbage truck.

I spot a FEMA team, the Salvation Army, and now we’re here. I call to make sure our Emergency Response Vehicles, the big feeding trucks, know this area’s been hit hard and people could use a hot lunch.

No one answered Wanda’s door. We must have had the wrong address. I vowed to go back to the office and investigate the mix-up, but we realized just from looking down the street that we were in a neighborhood where dozens of families were suffering the heartache of losing everything. I wanted to talk to them, too.

* * *

A middle-aged man with a youthful, tanned face walked out of his house, his hands encased with dirt. Looming over his driveway was a semi-truck without its bed. He used a few pumps of hand sanitizer before he would shake my hand. He had been working all day.

Tennessee Floods 2010

William Collins and his wife have lived in their home for 33 years. He is a truck driver, and the day of the flood he lost his home and his truck. He lost his livelihood. William flips through the snapshots he took for FEMA to document the damage—one glimpse after another of magazines, knick knacks and clothes, eviscerated by water and mud. Inside his house, cleanup kits from the American Red Cross are open on the floor—a broom, a mop, bleach and other soaps. He’s grateful that we’re there.

William and his wife were getting ready for their retirement. They had been investing in some renovations and new furniture while she was still on salary, now all of those things are gone. “We need all the help we can get,” William said.

Tennessee Floods 2010Down the street, a man named Joseph stands in his front yard. The chain-linked fence between us is clotted with debris. Joseph said he’s worried about what he’ll do for work now. A fork-lift operator, his place of business is under water. The pile outside his house is smaller, which sadly is a bad sign. It means that he hasn’t had the time and resources to clean out his home.

As the momentum of the cleanup wanes in these neighborhoods, desperation runs higher. The American Red Cross has relief workers out in these areas every single day offering help and taking away worry. We are asking people what they need, offering comfort, listening to their stories, handing out supplies and serving nourishing food. And the people who live here are noticing. They see the Red Cross on my vest and smile. They wave and holler “Thank you.”

Thank you for everything you’ve done to help.