On this day twenty years ago I was an American Red Cross Volunteer in Seattle, WA. For three days I jockeyed phone calls connecting stranded airport passengers to hotel lodging, vital medication refills, and other services. I triaged panicked callers who urgently told me, “My husband/ wife/ daughter/ son/ mother/ father/brother/sister was supposed to be on Flight xyz.”
I had a copy of the passenger manifest lists. For many I could assure them their loved one’s name was not on the list. For six people I had to put them on hold saying I would “check”, but I’d already memorized the names on the passenger lists. Instead I was ringing a Counselor to say, “This person’s loved is on one of the manifests.” Then I patched the two call together so that the Counselor could break the news to them, while I continued taking the next call until the flood became a trickle.
We lost one of our own in the following weeks. Linda Johnson, who traveled to New Jersey to help in the coordination efforts collapsed and died as she was returning to her hotel with other Red Cross volunteers. She had helped numerous people throughout her life. She had a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education. She worked for the Red Cross as a full-time employee as an Instructor and Administrator, then “retired” so she could volunteer to be deployed on field assignments. She made three trips to Puerto Rico after hurricanes, deployed to Florida and Kentucky after floods, provided earthquake relief in California and assisted in the Philippines after an eruption of Mount Pinatubo. I didn’t know her very well personally. She was there during two of my training courses before I became the Newsletter Manager. I do know that she loved her family and she loved helping others. I keep a copy of that September Newsletter to remember her and how all of our lives changed after that event
In 2004 I would go to India and meet a woman who lost her sister in the South tower. My presence seemed to help her in her journey towards healing. She felt as if her sister were beside us as we talked about that day. I do believe healing is a journey. You have to be patient and kind with yourself. It’s like physical therapy for your heart. You have to re-learn to take small steps before you can walk again.