1 minute readVolunteers
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Jay Varner: What the Red Cross Means to Me

Writers for the Red Cross

By Jay Varner

Jay VarnerA few months after I graduated college, my hometown paper hired me to cover the news. Like most young reporters, I was assigned the police and fire beat. Many of the stories were heartbreaking and tragic – fires, accidents, disasters – made even worse because these things happened in my community, to my neighbors. I couldn’t help but feel utterly useless when I stood outside a house fire with ash falling like snow on my shoulders, the acrid smoke stinging my nose, and watched a family usually stand in their yard with the phosphorescent flames radiating their stricken faces. But there was always one bright spot in stories like this: the Red Cross was there to help.

I understood how much that assistance meant. My father saw his family’s house burn down twice when he was a child. Years later, as an adult, my father tried to save houses from burning – he was the volunteer fire chief. Every community depends upon the selflessness of first responders like him, but work remains after the last firefighter drives away. The victims must set about rebuilding their lives. They might need blood, clothes, or shelter. Maybe they just need someone to listen to what has happened.

Should we ever experience such a disaster, all of us will need something – and someone. And no matter who we are or where we live, we have the comfort of knowing that the Red Cross will be there.

Jay Varner earned his M.F.A. in creative nonfiction from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. He served as nonfiction editor and eventually managing editor of Ecotone: Reimagining Place. Nothing Left to Burn is his first book.