Everyone handles these situation differently. Some just shut it out and off - avoiding or distracting with something else, another channel, another activity. Others spend moments or precious time in prayer, gratitude, anxiety or testing their faith. Others want to DO something - feeling an action will help reduce the feeling of powerlessness, anxiety -even guilt.
Many have been through natural disasters of some kind. Each type has its own unique issues and challenges. I live in the Northeast - we get the 'edges' of hurricanes, a rare tornado and usually at least one blizzard every year. In spring we can get flooding - as the snow melts 'up north' and our 2 major rivers try to handle it all Sometimes they don't.
When I see damage like today I start appreciating blizzards- your 'stuff' STAYS in your house! and usually the resident does too - rarely needing to relocate. We just hunker down' for a day or two - they tell us to stay home - we already stocked up on the mandatory eggs, bread, milk and for many beer and wine. . . we don't need to stop and get videos anymore - we're too busy watching the Weather Channel! How many times have we watched weather anchors combating gale force winds and 'hail the size of softballs' or using a measuring stick for drift heights. . .
What I want to share is how to help those impacted. First think through what is really happening. In this case there is rubble, trash, valuables, blocked roadways, buried people, destroyed buildings. Nothing is where it was yesterday. Those impacted will be in a true shock -often for days -as they have lost their way - the things that anchored them yesterday - the trees, lights, front yards, houses, community buildings are flattened, destroyed or missing. They have no true orientation of where their basics are. Their belongings are now scattered, lost or ruined.
The first concern is PEOPLE. They will be trying to rescue and sadly recover family, friends, neighbors, employees, all ages, all kinds - first. Those who don't have family involved may aid others but they may not - they may be too shell-shocked to be much help. They may be wandering around looking for something that helps them feel 'connected' - struggling to identify their pets and or possessions. Others may 'get busy' to distract themselves from the devastation.
- My heart goes out to parents separated from their children for any reason - usually it's school but it could be that they're at an activity or care-givers. I can't imagine the anxiety level of not knowing. I could understand if there is a surge of sales for cellphones for even younger children after this - so parents can hear that their child is ok and stay in contact as rubble is cleared.
- What we also don't realize when we're watching for the comfort of our homes and seeing nonstop visuals from the air as well as the ground is that the survivors of this type of disaster is that they don't have access to TV! They have NO IDEA how destroyed things are away from their immediate sight. They aren't seeing the "Debris Field" that we are. They're just seeing the piles of their houses, their cars, and their stuff in front of them. They don't have the non-stop narrative we do of who is being rescued, what is damaged, even where to go for help. Remember not only are many of their homes completely destroyed - but power and cable lines are destroyed so even if your house is standing - you don't have power or cable. Cellphone towers have also been wiped out.
- Once you find your people - then you look for your pets. They probably are also lost -injured- and traumatized. Many may be found under the piles of rubble - others wandering around. After the debacle of Katrina - where people refused to evacuate for fear of leaving their pets - there are now nationwide help agencies for the purpose of locating, rescuing, fostering, pets. This is another way you can help - send funds, offer your home & yard, food, cages, transport containers, and medical help for injured animals. Obviously those within a short driving range would be most appreciated so that reunions can happen quickly.
- If you're interested in helping financially or through adoption and temporary fostering of pets check this site: Pet Rescue
Then there's the problem of too much help coming in too quickly. Believe it or not - it may look like a 'slow' response or 'not caring' - but the first responders, Red Cross, FEMA and assorted military and government resources do have pre-established strategies and plans - that are played out in the weeks ahead. If you send too many in at once you suddenly have problems with how to feed and house them all! Remember you're dealing with as many as 1200 destroyed homes (the May 3rd event affected 8,000!) - countless number of people (reports say 20,000) who also need a place to sleep and eat. Having too many rescue people can actually drain the resources of the actual victims. So thinking that "I should go right away" because you have a needed skill may not a great idea. Being in the way and hungry is not help.
If you want to help 'in person' use the Internet and your local church to establish a structured group to respond. Contact groups via the Internet who are already in place and are experienced in how to properly respond. These groups often have inside resources to provide food and housing during their stay. They are a much needed resource during events like this and often most appreciated because they show up later - after the media goes away - but the damage still needs to be repaired.
The quickest way to help is to give to established charities. Red Cross is the '800 lb Gorilla' - that brings in a volunteer and paid staff to help with the aftermath of details. They are supposed to coordinate with FEMA.
You can send money via the Internet, Texting on your phone or submitting checks to your local organization. Whether your specific donation will go direct to this disaster may be questionable - as they handle so many different levels of care - that it may actually be spent by your local organization for the next or past fire. It's still a 'good thing.'
- What many of these victims are going to be dealing with is where to come up with money to cover deductibles, get proper insurance claims submitted, deal with the fact that their employer is gone or they are dealing with significant injuries, lost loved ones, pets and their lives have changed over night.
If there is any way that you can 'sponsor' a specific family, neighbor, employee, please do so. Try to reach out in your social networking friends to get actual people that you can help directly by sending them gift-cards, pre-paid Visa cards or paying directly to services, professionals, or home improvement centers. All I keep thinking is that I would need money for a place to stay first, meals, use of a cell phone, a car if mine was destroyed, then deal with finding contractors ( I can't imagine how that's going to 'work' ) if insurance is in place and they're not going to deny my claim - another nightmare. . . I'm sure that if each church, scout, civic, school, employer did an 'inventory of need' of their participants - they could develop very specific 'help lists' so that each person, child, family would get exactly what they needed and the resources could be allocated very efficiently and effectively.
This where the 'government' doesn't have the ability to help as well. Let them focus on the 'big stuff' - getting heavy equipment in, utility companies, food supplies, building supplies and safety issues taken care of. Get together with at least one group outside your own family and see how you can help specific members - with real names and real needs. Then network with others to get those needs met.
Once everyone is found, the community has managed through caring for those lost, employment or unemployment is determined, injuries are addressed, and word gets out to the victims about what they can do, not do, who will help and how to get help - then the real hard part begins.
As much as it is shocking to see the destruction - initially the victims and First Responders are in shock - its a protective mechanism - they often are loaded up with adrenalin and able to stay awake for abnormal amounts of time - but that ends.
Once the shock wears off and the media stops paying attention - the victims start to understand the level of loss they really have. It can be compared to grieving. Everyone is going to do it in their own way. Many won't think clearly for months ahead others will become troopers and help out not only those they know and love but those they don't. Some will become paralyzed in depressions or deal with unpredictable or quickly triggered anxiety attacks. Many will have trouble sleeping. Many will need to repeat their personal story repeatedly. Others may get frustrated and angry at this repetition or how others aren't validating, appreciating, grateful or grieving the same way.
There will be many real funerals and burials that will start off the years ahead - imagine for a minute having to not just dealing with the loss of a loved one - but then have to rebuild a home after dealing with insurance agents in the year where it is usually suggested to 'do nothing' and make no 'major decisions.' I've been through a significant loss - I couldn't measure the amount of physical, emotional, mental strength it took to manage my way through and I could go home to my comfortable home. Times like this can shift us into gratitude or guilt. I hope it inspires many to give and help.
I'm thinking this sharing is too long . . . I want to leave an imprint in my reader's minds of how to help this first week - after the media moves onto the next scandal, conspiracy or criminal conviction. . .
My thoughts and prayers are with every person impacted by this life changing event - one when we all take a deep breath and realize that anyone of us could be dealing with a whole different life tomorrow. . . hug someone you love today. Your time is precious.
One Day at a Time is Enough . . .