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Red Cross: Caring for Each Other After the Orlando Shooting

Embracing Orlando

American Red Cross worker Steve Palm was at the public memorial for the Orlando shooting victims distributing water, tissues and sunscreen, when he noticed a gentleman holding a flag.

orlando shooting red cross hug flag“This is a beautiful rainbow flag. May we take a photo with you?” Palm inquired. He also shared how the Red Cross is an impartial and neutral organization, making no discrimination nationality, race, religious beliefs, etc. “We’re here to support humanity.”

The flag owner responded that he’d love to take a photo together. “I just found out something horrible,” he added.

As cameras clicked away, Palm gave the flag bearer a supportive embrace. “He really needed to be hugged. It seemed like the most natural thing I could do,” said Palm.

As he stepped away, Palm noticed several people around them had tears in their eyes and immediately came up and started hugging the man with the flag.

He was no longer grieving alone.

A Network of Critical Assistance

After the Orlando shooting, the Red Cross convened and collaborated with 37 agencies to create a Family Assistance Center (FAC), in conjunction with the City of Orlando and the FBI Office of Victims Assistance. This serves as an inclusive, confidential and safe environment for people affected by the shooting.

Amy Decker, a licensed mental health professional and Red Cross worker, traveled from Jacksonville to support the community. “What’s happening is with the love and support of the country and world,” Decker shared. “We dig a little deeper into each situation. It’s as if we peeled back the layers of complexity.”

Orlando shooting family assistance center red crossServices in the FAC include air travel, child and family services, consulates, counseling, spiritual care, funeral services, crime victim services, health care, ground transportation, identification documents, translations, legal aid, lodging, medical examiner and senior services.

One family of four brothers visited a partner agency in the FAC with a goal to return their slain brother’s body to Mexico.

After four hours and help from 27 agencies, the family found closure. All four brothers will be able to accompany their brother’s remains back to Mexico so their parents can plan a proper burial.

This outcome is possible through airline partnerships for pro-bono flights, immigration officials for reentrance back into the country and legal aid. The family is empowered with knowledge and provided with hotel rooms, food assistance, a shoulder to lean on and so much more.

“The brothers left in peace,” Decker shared.

Content compiled and edited from material written by Barbara Behling, Roberto Baltodano and Donna Morrissey

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  1. I am moved to tears by this article. I was so thankful already by the June support for the GLBT community during Pride month. I was a member at the Diversity in Disaster Summit in St. Louis June 7&8 as a transgendered woman, DMH Liaison and Duty Officer for the Idaho/Montana Region. There have been times I’ve felt alone and afraid to come out within the Red Cross, though I don’t hide anything, but I can never express my gratitude enough for this organization. I’ve been proud to serve with as my Mother did in WWII and my daughters have, and I’m sure my grandchildren will. Please express my gratitude to the entire Diversity staff for their work for all. Anne

  2. Kudos to all those volunteers who came through in difficult time. The red cross is always there to pickup the pieces no matter what.