A Season of Thanks After Sandy

By Debbie Yee
Disaster Services Manager, Solano County, Bay Area Chapter/Gateway to the Golden State Region

As the holiday season begins, my thoughts turn not only to upcoming family get-togethers or what gifts to get, but to the those still trying to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy and the dedicated individuals helping aid in the recovery. A month ago today, I was privileged enough to be deployed on my first national Disaster Response Operation (DRO) for the Red Cross as part of the External Relations: Community Partnerships team in New Jersey. There was certainly a rush when the call came through informing me that I was assigned and knowing that, within 24 hours, I would be on the other side of the country helping with Sandy relief efforts. Packed and ready to go, I departed San Francisco on a foggy November morning and arrived that night in chilly Newark for DR144-13.

Having visited New York and New Jersey numerous times before to visit family and friends, it was eerie to say the least of seeing normally bustling roads and parts of the famed Manhattan skyline in the distance completely in the dark. It wasn’t until the next morning and the days to come that I would begin to get a more personal sense of the scope of Sandy’s devastation. From long lines of people and cars at the few gas stations opened in some areas to blocked off roads with downed trees and powerlines, you could see remnants of Sandy wherever you were in the state. The Staten Island ferry times have completely halted and with no end in sight. Charged with going out to the most affected areas and getting information on what local resources were available, I joined numerous other dedicated Red Crossers from across the country in ensuring that where the need was, we were there.

During my two weeks helping with the operation, I was able to visit areas all across the state. There were the forested communities in Sussex County in northern New Jersey, the various coastal communities near the central coastline, and even down to Atlantic City. All had varying degrees of damage, but no matter the location, I was able to meet countless people echoing the motto of “neighbors helping neighbors”. Even though some of them were devastated as well because of Sandy, they were still working all out in helping their communities in any way possible. Helping those who needed it connect with the Red Cross, whether for more supplies or as future partners, I was able to learn much about how disaster responses are better for all when everyone is working together toward a common goal of relief for those in need.

For my first national DRO, there were certainly numerous adventures to be had such as experiencing my first Nor’easter snow storm, driving up and down the Jersey coast, staying in a staff shelter, and even getting to meet Red Cross President Gail McGovern! As always though when helping in disasters, I left with a better appreciation for all that I have and grateful for all those who play a part in the Red Cross. So if you’re ever looking for an adventure and a way to help out in a disaster while meeting great people from local communities and more, be sure to sign up to be a Red Cross disaster volunteer! Happy holidays!

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