For the past two weeks, I have been working 12- to 14-hour days at the Family Assistance Center at Pier 94 on New York City's West Side. Hundreds of people visit the center daily. I have been assisting in the coordination of volunteers who are helping the American Red Cross in giving immediate financial gifts to the families of victims with near-term financial needs for such things as mortgage or rent payments, utility bills and funeral and related expenses, as well as for transportation, food, clothing and other time-sensitive and uncovered expenses.
Red Cross caseworkers interview affected families each day; trained mental health workers sit at many of the tables, helping victims talk about their losses. With the tireless dedication of almost 20,000 disaster relief workers, the Red Cross has provided safe refuge for more than 4,000 people in 76 shelters, and served 1.6 million meals and snacks to survivors, emergency personnel and stranded travelers throughout the United States.
The Red Cross also is providing spiritual counselors and mental health workers for those families requesting death certificates. Despite the immense sadness within the walls of the assistance center at Pier 94, so many of those who sit in the waiting areas display strength and resilience. They share their stories of loss with each other and with strangers, and they say they are determined to recover. The people of New York have really come to together. The police officers and rescue workers are amazing! The private and public sectors are working together to rebuild the City of New York.
I am so proud to be a part of this recovery process. I am very grateful to my employers, St. Thomas Dairies and the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, for allowing me to take these few weeks off to volunteer. At times I have been overwhelmed with grief for those who have lost so much, and I get a little homesick for my beautiful island by the sea. But I find strength in a Higher Power and the common bond that unites us all at this recovery center: the desire to help those in need!
As our organization's president, Dr. Bernadine Healey, shared with us yesterday, "The American Red Cross has a tremendous responsibility — to live up to the inspiration and memory of those lost. Although the recent tragedy has touched all of us, it has touched these families in a very personal way. It is with great humility and pride that we carry out this noble obligation to serve the American people at this time of great need."
Thank you to all who have been so supportive! From ground zero …
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