Disaster Response and Recovery
On April 27, Tuscaloosa, Alabama was on the minds of many Americans, but most didn't realize the damage statewide, especially in the small town of Hackleburg, population 1,500. In a rural area nearly 100 miles away from Birmingham, Hackleburg remains in the shadow of Tuscaloosa but the damage was just as bad, if not worse. The majority of the town was demolished and 17 residents were killed in the storm.
While many people scrambled to escape through the Holland Tunnel from Manhattan to Hoboken after the 9/11 attacks, a few students and their teacher from Hoboken High School traveled to Ground Zero to help.
“A volunteer called to alert us about the first plane. We went into the classroom, which had the only TV and turned it to a local news channel. After adjusting the rabbit ears on top, we all witnessed the second plane hit just a few moments later. I think we all had the same reaction and that was pure terror."
In the wake of chaos and tragedy following the September 11th tragedy, AmeriCorps members from the National Preparedness and Response Corps of the Atlanta Red Cross were deployed to Ground Zero. Among those who served was then-70-year-old Donald Trantow.
For many, knowing the relationship between natural disasters and volunteers is limited to response and recovery. It conjures up images of volunteers pulling survivors from rubble, sorting through debris, delivering supplies, consoling victims, and rebuilding communities. But service and volunteerism has a place in disasters long before one actually hits; much can be done in terms of preparation and readiness.
Pulling up to the home of Joplin resident Linda Smith, Kari Shields, an AmeriCorps NCCC member with the Southern region, was overcome with emotion. Shield’s team had already visited homes affected by the tornado that day, but they had only needed minor support such as tarps installed on roofs.
Volunteers motivate and inspire us. In the weeks following the tornado that destroyed much of Joplin, MO, we've received an outpouring of volunteers from various states and countries.
It's been seven weeks since we arrived in Joplin to set up disaster relief efforts, and yet we still see new faces and register new volunteers. Last week, we were introduced to a few of the volunteers from across the country, and asked them what inspires them to join us.
This year has shown us that disasters can strike anywhere, and can often come unexpectedly. This year alone, we've seen historic flooding along many rivers, deadly tornadoes in several states, a hurricane hit the East Coast (including New England), and recently, even an earthquake in Virginia.
On May 22, 2011, an EF-5 tornado struck my hometown of Joplin, Missouri. Nearly every resident was affected. The tornado destroyed approximately 18,000 vehicles, 7,000 homes, 5,000 businesses, and took the lives of 162 people, including two of my high school classmates.
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