The following was written by Julie Bradley of the American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter. She has been a volunteer with the Red Cross International Response roster since 2010. She has deployed to Nepal twice, first in 2013 for non-disaster preparedness and most recently in April of this year as part of the Information Technology/Emergency Response Unit team during the first round of response immediately following the earthquake. She is currently in Saipan providing IT support in the wake of this month’s typhoon.
As I worked to install communications and computers for the American Red Cross disaster response in Saipan I heard a conversation that took me back 10 years. Here in post typhoon Saipan a woman in line for Red Cross assistance turned to the woman behind her,
“How’d you do?” she turned and asked.
“The roof and one car,” she answered.
“The roof, first floor and carport,” the first woman replied.
That conversation between two islanders took me back 10 years to 29 August, 2005. “How’d you do?” became a normal greeting after Hurricane Katrina, that storm of storms. Epic Katrina was also the driving force behind legions of Americans like Glen and me to step up for our first Red Cross disaster volunteer work. We spent the first weeks after Katrina helping my parents who had 21 feet of surge sweep through their waterfront home near Bay St Louis.
“The roof, and water up to the third shelf of the medicine cabinet on the second floor”, was their answer to “How’d You Do?” As we worked days and nights to shovel sludge and pile ruined belongings on the street curb for pickup we were fed and watered by upbeat Red Cross volunteers from all over the country; cheerful people who enjoyed their work and took genuine interest in our well being. We looked forward to the daily arrival of the volunteers driving the Red Cross food trucks; we knew their names, where they were from, and they knew a lot about us before we finished the massive cleanup at my parents.
Flash forward to today. Typhoon Soudelor is just as catastrophic to these islanders as Hurricane Katrina was to my family. As I walk down the streets of Saipan I see aftermath everywhere; downed trees blocking roads and crushed houses, roofs gone with makeshift tarps to block the daily rains, entire houses lifted from their foundations by microburst tornadoes. It can take your breath away. The size of Saipan may be small, but it makes up the entire world for the people who live, work and raise families here. Red Cross case workers work long, emotion charged days to extend aid to the thousands of islanders who line up for food, water, medical and clothing assistance. The islanders are lovely, apologizing for putting us to the trouble as they enter their twelfth day with no power or sewage service.
Typhoon Soudelor was devastating, but forecasters give us some bad news; an entirely new Category Three typhoon may be heading our way. I eye the three cases of communication equipment that Glen and I brought with us as checked baggage. Will we have what we need for a second round of destruction? We keep our fingers crossed that the projected direct hit of these strong forces will be kinder and take the typhoon further out to sea. It has been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina, but as these typhoons in Saipan remind me, there is no shortage of disasters. Let’s all do what we can.
~Glen and Julie Bradley, Red Cross volunteers, Saipan