Monday, March 12, 2012

American Red Cross Tornado Relief

First off, I'm sorry for not posting on here for a while now. I am going to try to post once a week... starting now!

On March 2 of this year, there was a widespread and powerful tornado outbreak. Several large tornadoes raked Indiana and Kentucky as part of this storm system, including an EF-4 in southern Indiana and an EF-3 in eastern Kentucky. Both of these tornadoes caused horrible damage, injuries, and even loss of life.

Damage near Borden, IN (image from WDRB weather blog)

As an employee at the Louisville Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, I experienced this disaster from a different point of view than most. For the first time since I started working for the Red Cross more than two years ago, Louisville became the center of a major disaster relief effort. Working in the Building and Grounds Department, I had to help the disaster effort by getting our building set up to handle an influx of disaster responders and volunteers from all over the country. It has been difficult to just do my daily work while everyone around me there is rushing around trying to provide disaster relief for our community. I have to remind myself that if I wasn't around to do my job, it would make the disaster responders' jobs a lot harder. Still, I have been feeling a little unhelpful at work knowing that there is so much that needs to be done to help the storm victims. So, Aileen and I decided to volunteer this past Saturday with the American Red Cross to help in whatever way they needed us to.

We arrived very early Saturday morning at an abandoned factory in southern Indiana that the Red Cross had transformed into a temporary disaster relief headquarters. Aileen was assigned to help take inventory of the relief supplies in the warehouse area while I was assigned to a much more exciting task: I rode in a 30 foot truck out to the disaster sites in southern Indiana to hand out relief supplies directly to storm victims.

While it was moving to see the total destruction that was dealt to parts of our region, it was truly amazing to be able to provide assistance to people who had just had their entire lives turned upside-down. The team I was with was able to talk to many of the people, including the New Pekin Fire Chief whose town had suffered a lot of damage and a homeowner who had been lucky enough to have been away from his home when the storm rolled through his rural neighborhood in Borden.

Damage near Henryville, IN

Prisoner work crew in the heart of downtown Henryville, IN
Note the lack of buildings.

Besides the lack of roof, this home is relatively unscathed.
This is amazingly right across the street from the previous image.

Tornado near Daisy Hill, IN (image from WDRB weather blog)

While the destruction I saw in Henryville was terrible and has been dominating the local news here, mostly due to the fact that the downtown took a direct hit, I was most touched by the damage in Daisy Hill. This very rural area north of Borden took a devastating direct hit. What had been a country road dotted with small farms and houses winding through a forest had become a flattened muddy field littered with twisted metal, broken trees, and the private contents of people's homes. I will never forget handing supplies from the back of the truck down to a young girl as I realized that her family most likely no longer had a home. I am honored not only to have been able to give the people in these communities supplies to help them rebuild their lives, but also to have been able to give them hope and to let them know that they are not facing this tragedy alone.

1 comment: