At 4 a.m. on September 21st, I received a phone call from the national Red Cross Call Center. Twelve families were being evacuated from their homes due to flooding in my own county of Gwinnett, Georgia. I called my response team and we headed out into some of the worst weather I've ever driven in.
For the next 48 hours we assisted people with emergency shelter, food and clothing… a family whose house burned even while floodwaters rose steadily, an elderly woman taken out of her home by boat, 105 people evacuated from their mobile home park. We opened three shelters that first day and travelled throughout our county responding to people in crisis.
By 9 a.m. it was clear that this was a disaster throughout the metro Atlanta area. Fire and police departments scrambled to respond to the overwhelming calls for help. A full-scale rescue operation was underway.
That was a month ago. For the last four weeks my fellow responders and I have worked with the American Red Cross, helping to shelter, feed, clothe and comfort Georgians in 23 counties affected by the flooding. Lives disrupted, work and school on hold, and sadly, ten deaths.
Disaster brings out the best and the worst in people. I've heard of many selfless acts of kindness and courage; I've also heard of looting and scams. I've hugged people who cried from sheer exhaustion, seen the gratitude in a man's eyes when handed work gloves and a bottle of bleach, been moved by the determination of Red Cross workers to reach a home made inaccessible by raging water.
Through it all, I've been privileged to serve with the American Red Cross. I have travelled far from home before to assist those struggling in disaster in other states, but this was the first time I've worked on a disaster of this scale in my own home area.
As I get back to my normal activities — including posting on this blog — and life resumes its regular ebb and flow of delights and challenges, I pledge to remain mindful of those in our community who struggle to put the pieces back together. There is still a lot of hurt, both financial and emotional, for many, many families in Georgia.
If you have the means, take time to make a donation to the American Red Cross.
It is a blessing to be able to volunteer to help others. It's a blessing to give. Thank you for helping us to help others.