24 Hours of Terror

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine yourself at home.  You’ve been told a hurricane is coming your way and to prepare for the unimaginable. The rain has started falling. It gets heavier and the wind is picking up.  You drive to the store and stock up on water, batteries, and food.  The TV is kept on so you can listen to the news and weather reports. A quick look into your wallet reminds you that payday is a couple of days away, so spend carefully.  There is little gas left in the car, but you aren’t too worried yet, because you haven’t been given an evacuation order and you don’t live right on the coast.  Still, the thought of a hurricane hitting your own state is a scary thought, so you keep the news on to stay informed, just in case.

Valdez Dupre Family
Juliet Valdez, an evacuee from Dickinson, Texas, sits with her children David Dupre age 5 and Jennifer Dupre age 8 at a Red Cross supported shelter near Dallas, Texas pondering what the future holds for them. Photo: Michele Maki, American Red Cross

The hurricane hits.  There is lots of rain and wind, and you’re so thankful that you don’t live on the coast which is 25 or 30 miles away. The storm rages all night and in the morning you get the evacuation order and go to leave and see……. water. Lots of it. The area around your home is flooding.  How can this happen?  It happened so fast.

The hurricane hit and then the storm stalled over land and dumps rain at the rate of several feet per day over your town. The water is rising. You can’t get out. The feeling of terror starts to overcome you and you fight away the panic.

The coast guard and fellow citizens arrive in your neighborhood and are rescuing your neighbors in boats.  You’re next….your family is helped into a boat. There is no time to grab the food and water you spend your last dime on – just enough time to grab your backpack with a change of clothes and a phone and flee.  You are overwhelmed with fear and then relief… so much so that you don’t even recall who saved you. It’s a blur.

By nightfall you and your family have been driven to a shelter and an American Red Cross volunteer welcomes you and listens as you recount the terror of the last 24 hours.

What just happened?  You are numb…shock.  Comprehending the last 24 hours is difficult.  Decision making?  Too much.  Everything is still sinking in.

This narrative mirrors the last 24 hours for one evacuee and her family.  Juliet Valdez and her family survived a terrifying ordeal when they were rescued from their Dickinson, Texas home. “It happened so fast.  I thought we were OK… I mean, we did everything right, didn’t we?  Food, water, listening for the evacuation orders…” Her voice cracks with emotion as it trails off.  “I don’t know what to do now…. I don’t know what we are going to do.”

Jennifer Dupre 8 smiling
Little Jennifer Dupre age 8, an evacuee from Dickinson, Texas in a Red Cross supported shelter. Photo: Michele Maki, American Red Cross

Juliet and her family are just a few of the more than 42,000 residents that slept in a Red Cross or partner shelter last night in Texas. And their story is not an uncommon one. Thousands of families have been impacted by Harvey’s destructive path and historic flooding, leaving many homeless with just the clothes on their backs.

Hurricane Harvey 2017
Thousands of impacted residents seek refuge at the Red Cross “mega shelter” at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas. Photo: Daniel Cima, American Red Cross

Juliet is now safe in a shelter supported by the Red Cross.  She and her family have a safe place to sleep, food and emotional support thanks to the 2,000+ Red Cross volunteers on the ground helping with the Hurricane Harvey response.  “I can’t thank them enough – the Red Cross.  I don’t know what we would do without your help.”

Story by Michele Maki, Kern Red Crosser deployed to Texas

HOW TO HELP

Make a donation. Financial donations are the best and quickest way to support Red Cross relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey. Call, click, or text to give: dial 1-800 RED CROSS, visit redcross.org, or text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also mail or bring in a check to your local chapter office.

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Event-based volunteers at the George R. Brown Center in Houston accept and process clothing donations. Photo: Daniel Cima, American Red Cross

The local Red Cross is not collecting donated items such as food or clothing to send to the impacted areas. We are so grateful for this outpouring of support and generosity, but collecting and sending food, clothing, and other household items often does more harm than good. It takes time and money to store, sort, clean, transport, and distribute donated items, which diverts limited time and resources away from helping those most affected. In contrast, financial donations can be accessed quickly and put to use right away to directly help and support those affected. Watch this video to learn more.

Hurricane Harvey 2017
Red Cross Volunteers Amy Gasea and Emanuel Castillo hand out hot meals to shelter residents at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston after Hurricane Harvey. Photo: Daniel Cima, American Red Cross

Become a volunteer. Right now the local Red Cross is sending existing and trained Red Cross volunteers to assist with Harvey relief efforts. More than 90% of our Red Cross workforce is made up of volunteers, and they serve our local community every day. By registering to become a volunteer, you can help with everyday disasters here at home, and potentially deploy to future disasters in other communities. Visit redcross.org/volunteer to begin your application process today.

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