Dave Sanderson was the last passenger off the plane. When US Airways Flight 1549 made a forced landing into the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey, Dave risked his life to help others escape.
On that fateful day on Jan. 15, 2009, all 155 people aboard miraculously survived. That event became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson.”
After making sure others were safely out of the plane, Dave jumped into the frigid waters and swam to the nearest rescue boat. He credits the Red Cross with helping to save his life because of the swimming lessons he’d taken as a boy.
“When we got to shore,” Dave says, “there were three people waiting for me – two EMTs and a guy from the American Red Cross.” The Red Cross was there providing blankets and other support. Dave also remembers that “in the middle of the night, someone from the Red Cross went out and got me some sweats so I’d have something to wear in the morning.”
Meanwhile, back in North Carolina, the Red Cross reached out to support Dave’s anxious family. Dave says, “They were there taking care of my family. In a span of 14 hours I had three Red Cross experiences. The most important one was the Red Cross taking care of my family. That’s why I now speak for the Red Cross.”
This spring Dave will share his story as the keynote speaker at two major Red Cross events in Western Missouri. Tickets are available for the centennial celebrations of these two Red Cross chapters:
American Red Cross of Southern Missouri
“Centennial of Service”
May 16, 2017
American Red Cross of Northwest Missouri
St. Joseph, Missouri
“Heroes for the American Red Cross”
May 18, 2017
Dave reminds people, “The Red Cross takes people who are suffering, whether it’s from a fire, a tornado, a hurricane or even a military situation. They help people get through it. People have hope that life will be better because of the Red Cross.”
By Julia Lugon American Red Cross
If I could give one piece of advice for anyone joining the Red Cross Disaster Action Team in the winter it would be to wear warm socks.
My first fire call came exactly two months after training for the team of volunteers specially trained to go to home fires and provide aid, comfort and support for those whose homes were damaged or destroyed. With the weather getting colder, the chances increased for getting a call from the Red Cross disaster duty officer who is alerted by the Kansas City Fire Department that there’s been a house fire and people needing Red Cross assistance.
Most of the disasters in the Kansas City area that the Red Cross responds to are home fires – with more than 2,000 people assisted last year in the 15-county Greater Kansas City Chapter area. With winter and people trying to stay warm, accidents happen. This is because people often make unsafe use of space heaters, open flames like candles or overloading old electrical wiring.
After my initial DAT training, the plan was for me to shadow a DAT Technician until I had enough experience to qualify as a Technician. Every week, the Technician to whom I was assigned sent a text with her schedule and asked if I was available that night.
Most of the times I was, but for some miraculous reason, there were no fires during my shifts.
When my Technician finally called, I couldn’t even believe it. It was 10 p.m. and I had just gotten home from school. I read her name on my iPhone but didn’t immediately process that this was real – a house caught fire and they needed me. I was so eager to arrive at the scene I didn’t realize I left my house wearing a simple pair of jeans and what apparently were the thinnest socks in the world – never mind it was 19 degrees and I would spend most of my time on the street.
Driving to the scene, I was trying to picture what it would be like: fire trucks everywhere, smoke, tears, destruction. Would I cry? Would I be able to keep it together and help a family that needed all the support they could get? Because it was my first fire, I wondered how I would possibly be able to help. My training seemed so distant and I wasn’t sure I would be able to provide any comfort to those needing it.
Boy, was I wrong.
The household had 11 people – seven adults and four children. They barely spoke any English and I happen to speak some Spanish, enough to translate what was going on. I am Brazilian and my Portuguese also helped me a lot, since the two languages are similar.
My Technician would tell me what to say and ask and I would translate their answers, becoming a vital conduit between explaining their needs and informing them what the Red Cross could do to provide immediate emergency assistance. The family seemed desperate, and the fact that someone was speaking to them in their language helped calm them down and enabled them to fully understand what was going on.
With no electricity, a destroyed bathroom and water damage, the family was in great need of assistance. There were two DAT Technicians with me at the scene and they guided me every step of the way, explaining all the procedures and making sure we were helping that family the best way we possibly could.
After assessing the damage and determining that the home wasn’t livable, we assisted them with their most urgent needs – food, clothing, gasoline, hotel.
It wasn’t much, but enough to get them through the first 24 to 48 hours after the fire. We also gave each adult and each child a Red Cross Comfort Kit with shampoo, tooth paste, and other hygiene items they might need.
The kids also received a stuffed Mickey Mouse toy, thanks to a partnership of Red Cross and Disney. The toy seemed to make the adults as happy as the kids and brought a smile to their faces in such a harsh time.
After saying goodbye and giving a hug to the family and other DATs, I realized that I was so glad to be at that scene. My presence mattered. The simple fact that I was there, representing the Red Cross was something already. No matter how long ago I had my training, I could do something about the fire. I could help that family in some way. I felt that because of us, those people could now afford a hotel, take a warm shower, have a nice meal and make a plan for their next days.
Yes, being at home watching some TV show after a long day would have been nice, but not nearly as rewarding as being a part of that moment.
With all the adrenaline running through my body, I didn’t notice how much my legs were shaking from the freezing temperatures and staying outside for so long. I couldn’t even feel my feet anymore. As I left the fire scene I had two thoughts in my mind: I am so glad to be a DAT volunteer and I hope I don’t have to amputate my toes. I got home and immediately tried to get myself warm. It was all worth it. Next time, I will know better.
If you would like to become a Red Cross volunteer and became a member of the DAT team, go to redcross.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS.
It’s the middle of the night and you awake to the smell of smoke and are quickly seized by panic and fear: Your house is on fire!
You have maybe two minutes get out safety with your family. In a matter of minutes, the fire department shows up to save what’s left of the house.
But there you are on the sidewalk looking at the smoldering ruins, huddling with loved ones and thankful that everybody is OK.
Then a jumble of questions rushes through your mind – What should I do next? Where do I go? Who can help me?
Then, you see two people walking toward you in Red Cross vests. They are volunteers, but more specifically members of the Disaster Action Team (DAT), specially trained to help those dealing with home fires to get through those first hours of feeling helpless and alone.
The job of the DAT volunteers is to provide for the immediate needs of those displaced by a home fire such as food, clothing and a place to stay, along with offering hope and compassion. Sometimes it may be locating a family member or friend who can help, or it may be simply taking the time to sit down with them and let them talk about their ordeal and offer them a sympathetic shoulder to lean on.
It’s a scene repeated scores of times in the Red Cross Western Missouri Region. In 2016, the Red Cross opened 1,318 home fires cases and assisted 3,845 people in the 62-county Region. Broken down, that’s 717 cases and 2,016 people in the 15 counties making up the Greater Kansas City Chapter; 114 cases and 346 people in the 18-county area of the Northwest Missouri Chapter in St. Joseph; and 487 cases and 1,483 people in the 29-county area of the Southern Missouri Chapter in Springfield.
One thing DAT members learn quickly is that no two situations are the same and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. But they always show up ready to help those in need. They listen so they can come up with a recovery plan and often have to adapt to the situation they have walked into. In the end, they have accomplished the Red Cross goal of providing needed assistance in a timely manner.
For instance, during one apartment fire in the Kansas City area, the DAT team arrived to find most of those who escaped didn’t speak English. But a youngster whose family fled their burning apartment was fluent in both English and his native language so the DAT team utilized him as a translator to explain to the others what the Red Cross was going to do to help them.
In another case, a DAT team arrived at an apartment fire where residents had been displaced and most had no place to go. Additional Red Cross volunteers were summoned and a shelter was opened in a nearby community center to provide the residents with a safe place to stay until they were able to return home several days later.
It was another example of a DAT team arriving to find the needs were greater than first thought but being able to quickly improvise, adapt and overcome to help those in need.
But Red Cross assistance for those displaced by a home fire doesn’t end when the DAT team packs up to leave after asking if there is anything else they can do to help.
Red Cross caseworkers in the coming days will be in touch to help people to develop a long term recovery plan and often bringing many of its community partners to provide additional assistance such as furniture, medical supplies or help in finding a new place to live.
There always is a need by the Red Cross for DAT volunteers. If you would like to become a DAT member and help those in need, go to www.redcross.org and sign up to start the process of becoming a Red Cross volunteer or call 1-800-Red Cross for more information.
Red Cross volunteer Carl Manning of the Greater Kansas City Chapter recently was deployed as part of the Public Affairs team assigned to the Gatlinburg, Tennessee wildfire. These stories show some of the ways the Red Cross was able to help those affected by the fire.
By Carl Manning American Red Cross
When fire roared through the hills surrounding Gatlinburg in the darkness of a Monday evening devouring everything in its path, many families had only minutes to escape and some did not make it. Such harrowing experiences can trigger emotional distress that is hard to shake.
Helping people deal with the emotional distress triggered by disaster falls to American Red Cross mental health counselors like Karen Bussell, who has been spending her days in Gatlinburg talking to residents whose homes have been destroyed or damaged.
On a recent day, Karen, a retired school psychologist in Knoxville, approached a man at the Red Cross shelter in Gatlinburg and asked how he was doing. He didn’t want to talk so she moved on. But a couple hours later, he returned and they had a conversation about his experience.
“Having someone who will listen validates self worth,” Karen said. “People need to tell their story. That’s part of the healing process and it also helps relieve the emotions to discuss.”
It turns out the man had a harrowing story to tell. When the fire started, he loaded his vehicle with as many of his neighbors as he could and literally drove through the flames to safety. But he couldn’t get everybody out, and that was a failure that gnawed at his soul.
Karen said that was classic survivor’s guilt – a feeling she said is common among those who escape unharmed from a disaster, while others they know perish.
“He couldn’t help everybody and that messed with his self worth,” she said. “He felt he had let people down. He had helped a lot of people but he couldn’t help everyone.”
After awhile she got him to see things from a different perspective.
“He was focused on what he couldn’t do rather than what he did and we got him to start thinking about what he did which was to save a lot lives,” she said.
Often, talking is a good first step toward healing.
“Talking through your traumatic experience helps you organize your thoughts and process what happened and helps the healing. Sometimes it helps with the healing process to say it out loud,” she said.
Karen pointed out that children often mirror the feelings of their parents. As long as parents seem OK, then so will the children. Also, as long as children have something to do to keep their minds active, they will be distracted from what happened. That’s why at the shelter the Red Cross and its many partners have organized numerous activities for the children.
People under stress feel physically and mentally drained, getting frustrated more quickly and more often. To help manage these feelings, the Red Cross provides people with coping tips during events over which they have no control.
Eat properly and maintain a balanced diet, drink plenty of water and get some rest.
Stay connected with friends and family. Support reduces that feeling of being alone.
Be patient with those around you and recognize that everyone is stressed and may need time to put their feeling and thoughts in order.
Remain positive and remember having successfully gone through other tough times.
Reach out when support is needed and help others when they need it.
Red Cross volunteer Carl Manning of the Greater Kansas City Chapter recently was deployed as part of the Public Affairs team assigned to the Gatlinburg, Tennessee wildfire. These stories show some of the ways the Red Cross was able to help those affected by the fire
By Carl Manning American Red Cross
Carol Lilleaas was sitting on her cot in the American Red Cross shelter in Gatlinburg, Tennessee where she has been since her home and just about everything in it was reduced to ashes from the wildfire that swept through the area.
Lee Ragsdale, a member of the Red Cross spiritual care team, saw her sitting there and joined her on the cot. Their talk started as a few words that ins short order blossomed into a fully animated conversation. In a few minutes she was smiling for the first time since she had arrived at the shelter.
She explained that the only thing she really regretted losing in the fire was the U.S. flag that covered the coffin of her career Army husband when he died 12 years ago.
“I woke up in the middle of the night, thought about it and start crying. It was the only thing that made me cry,” she said.
While Lee wouldn’t discuss specifics of his conversation with her, he did say that she’s a strong woman.
“I just reminded her of her strength and reassured her that she was capable and that she shouldn’t feel ashamed asking for help,” Lee said.
An ordained Episcopal deacon, Lee also is a Knoxville Police Department chaplain. This is his first time as a member of the Red Cross disaster spiritual care team and said he’s enjoying being able to help those in need.
“It was everything that I thought it was going to be and more. I’m essentially in awe of what’s going on,” he said.
Spiritual care is about reaching out to people and helping them overcome their adversities, whether it’s with a conversation or helping with such things as getting a wheelchair fixed or finding food for the family dog.
All spiritual care responders are trained to provide appropriate and respectful disaster spiritual care in line with Red Cross fundamental principles of impartiality and neutrality. It’s best to let the survivors follow their own beliefs. Some welcome prayer while others don’t.
“Praying isn’t necessary. If they don’t ask, then I don’t push it,” Lee said. “Whatever brings comfort to them, I’m always willing to facilitate,” he said. “The first thing is to be there for them and really listen and understand and let them know that.”
He said when people feel they are being understood, it enables them to open up and discuss their emotions and other issues.
“If I can help them to move from awareness to acceptance and finally to action, then I’ve helped to promote that healing they need,” he said.
This November, the American Red Cross encourages eligible donors to give the perfect gift – a blood donation – to help ensure a sufficient blood supply throughout the holiday season.
A decline in donations occurs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day while donors are busy with family gatherings and travel. However, patients don’t get a holiday break from needing lifesaving transfusions. In fact, every two seconds, someone in the U.S. needs blood.
The Red Cross encourages donors to start a new holiday tradition and bring family and friends together to donate blood or platelets. Donors of all blood types are needed this November to help ensure a sufficient supply for hospital patients. As a thank you for donating around the Thanksgiving holiday, all those who come to donate Nov. 24-28 will be invited to download a set of recipes from celebrity chefs.
The American Red Cross has unveiled the free Hero Care mobile application. It’s designed to help members of the military, veterans and their families identify and access both emergency and non-emergency Red Cross services from anywhere in the world.
“Whether you’re the parent of a child joining the military, a military member, a military spouse or a veteran, the Hero Care App will connect you to vital services and guide you to valuable resources that will help alleviate stress during emergencies and provide important information right at your fingertips,” said Jason Ramlow, director of Services to the Armed Forces for the 62-county Western Missouri Region.
“When an emergency happens, accurate information, easy access to services and time are of the essence, especially for military families. That’s why the Red Cross has designed the new Hero Care App,” he added.
Some the important features of the app include:
Request Red Cross emergency services including an emergency message or assistance with emergency travel or emergency financial aid.
Securely and easily access information about their service member in the case of an emergency, including updated information as they move or change duty assignments.
Access non-emergency Red Cross behavioral health assistance including financial assistance and free local workshops for military kids and spouses.
Find local resources and information provided by trusted community partners like Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), Blue Star Families, Military Child Education Coalition, United Way, Goodwill, Easter Seals, and others.
Locate information on key government resources such as MilitaryOneSource, VA Benefits and Services, Department of Labor VETS, the VA Caregiver Support Program, and SAMSHA Community Health Support Services.
Content in the Hero Care App is available in both English and Spanish, and the call center is staffed 24/7 with multi-lingual translation services.
The Hero Care App is available to download for free in app stores, by texting ‘GETHEROCARE’ to 90999 or by clicking on the following link from a mobile device http://3cu.be/sharehc.