by Katherine Powell, Communications Intern, Fall 2013
October 29th marked the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy. As families prepared to celebrate Halloween, the hurricane propelled itself across the Northeastern coast, spanning a total of 1,100 square miles. Sandy’s winds reached 115 mph, making her the second most costly hurricane in United States history.
Nora Druepple is a volunteer for the Disaster Mental Health Team. Nora’s role at Red Cross allows her to practice her professional skills as a clinical social worker. Her husband, Nolan Lujan, is a nurse and a volunteer for the Red Cross Health Services Team.
Around Christmastime last year, Nora and Nolan travelled to New York to help with the Sandy relief effort. Twenty-two volunteers in all were deployed from the Central Texas Region. The couple was headquartered in Manhattan, but most of their time was spent nearby in some of the most devastated boroughs.
“It was an odd shock going from the glitzy Manhattan streets that were decorated for Christmas to these ruined areas,” Nora said. “It was a sober reminder of what these people endured.”
Nora spent her time counseling not only victims of the storm, but also her fellow Red Crossers who were in need of support. Nolan focused his efforts on making contacts with new residents.
“I actually drove all 13 boroughs of New York,” Nolan said. “It was a drive that made Austin traffic seem trifling, and one I hope I never have to do again. What I saw will stick with me.”
But the difficult drive was well worth it in the end for Nolan. He and six other Health Services Team Members successfully helped dozens of residents acquire items they had lost such as prescriptions, glasses, walkers and wheelchairs.
Both Nora and Nolan were stunned by the abundant number of Red Crossers who were in New York to help with recovery efforts. From the time Sandy struck to the time Nora and Nolan arrived, the Red Cross had already mobilized at least 15,800 trained workers, most of which were volunteers. Although Sandy was long gone, her catastrophic aftermath was not.
“We came at an interesting time,” Nolan said. “It had been months since Sandy came, but the need was still very intense.”
And the Red Cross was still there, doing what they needed to do. Healing and recovery from such a terrible disaster is a slow process. But as Nora says, when we work together as a community we speed up that process.
“It’s important for me to give back to my community,” Nora said. “I enjoy helping people, that’s always been a part of who I am.”
Sandy’s one year anniversary is a time for us to reflect on the progress made and to recognize the people who have made this progress possible—not only Red Cross volunteers, but the thousands of people across the nation who donated to the Red Cross in support of their fellow Americans in their time of need. It is the generosity of our donors and volunteers that makes the work of the Red Cross possible and enables us to provide services that build more resilient communities.