2 minute readDisaster, Health & Safety

Too Close to Home

All too often we see pictures of and hear stories about homes, neighborhoods, and even entire towns wiped out by fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and flood waters. These images and news stories are graphic and raw and remind us all of how truly vulnerable we are in our relationship with Mother Nature.

And while we feel sympathy for – and in some cases even grieve for and with – those whose homes were destroyed and lives are now turned completely upside down, there remains a substantial distance between our reality and their reality. We can intellectually understand and appreciate the severity of the crisis and how devastated those directly affected must be, but that does not mean we understand and appreciate what it would feel like to stand in their shoes.

And then the day comes when your city, your town, or your street is in the path of a disaster, and your family, your friends, or even you are those who others are seeing pictures of and hearing about on the news.

A few years ago a tornado plowed through and destroyed much of downtown Iowa City, Iowa, where my alma mater, the University of Iowa, is located. Around the same time, floodwaters literally drowned downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I first began my career with the Red Cross and where my husband and I lived right after we were married.

And then last week, an awful tornado ravaged parts of my most recent Red Cross and family home outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Thanks to the Washtenaw-Lenawee County Chapter’s blog and Facebook page – where Jenni Hawes, the Chapter’s Disaster Public Relations Representative (and one of my best friends, I’m proud to share), and other team members have been posting frequent updates and links to online photo albums and media stories – I’ve been able to follow the story closely.

The images are graphic and raw and remind me how truly vulnerable we are in our relationship with Mother Nature. My immediate family wasn’t in the path of nor was my home destroyed by that tornado, and for that I am extraordinarily grateful. But my one of my towns – even though I no longer live there – was, and my Red Cross family and friends are those whose pictures and stories are now appearing on the national news.

I am grieving for and with those whose homes were destroyed and lives are now turned completely upside down, and I feel as though the distance between my reality and their reality has decreased dramatically. I can intellectually understand and appreciate the severity of the crisis and how devastated those directly affected must be, and because the disaster hit so close to home I can better understand and appreciate what it would feel like to stand in their shoes. And it hurts.

I chose to write on this topic today because if I needed a reminder, perhaps others out there need a reminder as well. A reminder to be compassionate and generous – in whatever way is most comfortable and appropriate for you – when the images and stories on the news are about people you’ve never met and places you’ve never lived. Because while they may be strangers to you, to someone else they are the world.

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  1. The Sickness within the American Red Cross in Broward and South Regional Offices

    A sickness is spreading within our organization that is affecting all of our volunteers and ARC paid staff call “Fear and Disguise”.

    It is spreading throughout our Chapters and Regional Office in South Miami. In addition, just like everything else that is been plaguing the ARC authorities are simply ignoring the PROBLEM symptoms are:

    1) POOR LEADERSHIP
    2) ABUSIVE OF AUTHORITY
    3) ABUSIVE OF DONATOR MONIES
    4) ABUSIVE OF VOLUNTEERS AND PAID STAFF

    We the people who give the ARC its life purpose and fulfill its mission can know longer standby and allow these things to continue, abuse of any power can only lead to the abuse of its people. Ian, Bernie, Sylvia, Terry H., and Rigo, are but a few who are corrupting the system. We have the ability to make such changes we have the numbers we have the voices we must all stand together we must fight for what is just.

    We cannot make a change if we are afraid to speak out. I believe the greatest sin any of us can do is sit around and let things happen, especially when it hurts us. Each one of us have a story to tell, each one of us have a story to be told. Each one of us must speak up and be heard.

    Being silent only hurts the mission. Being silent also leads you astray!

    My fellow Volunteers, I beg you to please speak out. Lets’ take back the mission, the American Red Cross and what it stands for. Politics set aside, let your voices be heard. Because nothing changes, if nothing is said. Nothing said, nothing changes.

    The leadership we have is definitely leading us in the wrong direction. Their egotistical mindset and self-serving attitudes distort the very essence of the American Red Cross and its Volunteers.

    Remember, without the thousand of Volunteers that are out there who have decided to put mankind first, those who have decided to step out of their safety zone deserve the greatest respect any of us can give and that means making sure that American Red Cross always remain true to its mission. Anyone whether pay staff or volunteers, who distort that concept, should be held accountable for their mistakes.

    I truly believe that our Founder Clara Barton, would be extremely disappointed as to how self-serving and political this has become.

    Daniel Torres
    Volunteer, ARC

  2. This is a very moving article. The Red Cross is an American Staple when it comes to bringing relief to disasters. Here’s to positive improvements moving forward!