Friday, May 13, 2011

Volunteers remain strong as assignments are extended along the Mississippi River

American Red Cross disaster volunteers have had a long few weeks. It’s rare that so many bad things happen in so many areas in such a short amount of time. A true reminder that anything can happen anywhere, anytime.

Here at the Dallas Area Chapter, 27 volunteers who are nationally trained experts were deployed to areas in Alabama and Mississippi to respond to the deadly tornado outbreaks. Many of those that went were still washing the smoke smell out of their disaster vests from the massive wildfires that destroyed over two million acres right here in their backyard. Now, many of them are shifting gears from tornado to flood with extended assignments; and all eyes on the Mississippi River.

As they reflect on what they have seen so far, the heartbreak for those affected and the desire to stay and help comes through in even the simplest message. Tom Elliot is one of those volunteers. His brief message says it all:

“Mississippi had spotty tornado damage overall, but the small town of Smithville, population 800, was nearly wiped off the face of the map. 18 people died. They have US flags in front of the rubble of each house where someone died. We are now preparing for the floods. Vicksburg, Mississippi is due to crest on May 21st. We’re planning to open four mega shelters along the western side of the state and two mega kitchens. Mississippi wraps up one disaster and now has to face a second. Hardly seems fair.

With record flooding following record tornadoes following record wildfires, no doubt it is taking a toll on everyone from emergency worker, to resident, to even the observers far from these areas. Our volunteers are tired. But they are even more resilient because the people being impacted by these terrible disasters need them to be.

On behalf of all of us keeping the home fires burning, we salute every one of you out in the field helping and we really hope to see you home soon.

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