September 11 Digital Archive: XML Document
Story:I heard the news on the radio on my way to work at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. I sat around with a group watching TV for a few minutes and then by myself. I was in disbelief. It suddenly dawned on me that I was a Red Cross nurse, volunteer and Board of Govenor member and had responsibilities. I turned to my assistant and told her I was leaving to do whatever I could for the Red Cross and I did not know when I would return...it could be days or weeks. I went to my local chapter, the Central New Jersey Chapter in Princeton, and told them I was available to do whatever was needed. They sent me to the Red Cross staging center in New Brunswick, NJ. I did not want any special treatment so, I never told anyone at the staging center that I was a board of Governor member. I just told them I was a Red Cross volunteer nurse and was there to help. I must have somehow appeared calm, clear headed and experienced as they gave me the assignment of answering calls from the family crisis line. My nursing skills were well utilized as I listened carefully to the desparate pleas of family members to help them find their family members. They trusted the Red Cross and because I was the voice at the other end of the line they trusted me. I had no easy answers for anyone that day, but I could listen to their pleas, take descriptions for our missing person center, and generally encouraged them to call back as much as they wanted. One man, a father in his 50's, called back to tell me about his son who worked for AON. He described his 26 year old son as having hair so red, that it simply could not be missed as the search for survivors began. He called me three times that day to remind me of the color of his sons hair and to ask if we had found him yet. The family pleas were heart wrenching, but I knew the best thing I could do was listen and offer hope, a hope that all of us as Americans were feeling collectively more strongly than I had ever seen in a lifetime.
Later that evening I set up a shelter for a group of Hispanic office cleaners who could not return to their homes in NY. The following morning I was the nurse assgined to a shelter further up in North New Jersey that was in habited by a group of elderly citizens from NYC who could also not return to their homes after a day of gambling in Atlantic City New Jersey.
For approximately two weeks thereafter, I did whatever I felt needed to be done, from putting together a mental health referral sheet together for the phone handlers in our area, to hand out brochures on how to help children cope with this disaster, to organizing a business/school help network, to making official visits to the 9/11 Family Center at the Pier in NYC and visit the Red Cross shelters at the World Trade Center sites.
Affects:It was interesting to me how this event moved a nation to volunteer, give money and donate blood. although this was the most devastating man-made disaster on American soil, disasters strike thousands of people every day. It showed me (although I did not need proof) that our great organizations is there for events like 9/11, but it is also there everyday in a much more quiet way for single family and other disasters. I wish more people in this country understood that disasters strike all the time (not just once in a great while, as is the perception). I wish they understood that we need their help 365 days a year...we need their blood and financial donations and we need their time and talents. We needed it then and we need it now.
Red Cross Volunteer:yes
Red Cross Employee:no