"It doesn't matter where you come from. This is the United States of America and it has to be neighbor helping neighbor. Your government is on your side and is grateful."
--U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD)
While working at HQ today, it became very evident that a "big shot" had just walked in. An entourage of people, along with a television camera, made a dramatic entrance....I looked up to see what the hubbub was about, and noticed a little tiny, petite woman, surrounded by all sorts of aides in suits.
It was U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest serving female in Congressional history - and she was visiting Headquarters in Baltimore today.
I figured she would breeze in, do a cursory glance around, and then breeze out...but boy - was I ever wrong.
Senator Mikulski shook EVERY SINGLE PERSON'S hand in HQ today...and not only asked where we were from, but then thanked us for our volunteerism and service. She asked questions - "What are you doing?", or "How can we help you?" - and she actually REALLY listened.
I was impressed.
Our operations in Maryland and Delaware are winding down...the flood waters are receding, and the decision was made to send some volunteers, including myself, up north. Some are heading to New York, and some are heading to New Jersey.
I not only have family in NJ, but I also served there last year during Hurricane Irene - so I was hoping and praying I'd get marching orders for the Garden State, as I know the geography more than I know New York. My wishes came true, and in the morning, I'll be making the 3-hour drive north to Somerset, NJ to report to Headquarters there.
Conditions will be a bit more brutal...I'll be surprised if I end up in a motel, so I have a sleeping bag and air mattress on the ready, along with a pillow and blanket. Staff shelters - with sometimes hundreds of volunteers sleeping on cots 18" apart - are a necessary evil of a large-scale disaster. In Hattiesburg last month, for Hurricane Isaac, we had 250 people in a shelter with TWO showers. Fun times, fun times.
I'll be working at HQ again in Logistics, helping with Supply, Procurement or Transportation. Trying to supply thousands of volunteers will be a huge responsibility, and I've heard they're desperate for help. Twelve-hour days will be the norm, I'm sure.
In an "ideal" disaster deployment, an ARC volunteer can expect to have a day off after seven days on the job. Tomorrow is my 7th day, and I doubt I'll be seeing a day off for quite awhile - but that's the nature of the beast. I'm just trying to eat somewhat healthy, and rest when I can - and I know that my discomfort and exhaustion is temporary...and I keep that in mind when I feel like complaining. The residents affected by Hurricane Sandy aren't looking at "temporary" discomfort - some are looking at years of recovery...so I keep my mouth shut and carry on.
Tonight, it's with a bit of uncertainty that I sign off...will I have power tomorrow, so I can post? Who knows.... Will I have gas, so I can get to where I need to be in my rental car? I guess only time will tell....
Until then -
*More than 7,000 people spent Wednesday night in 115 Red Cross shelters in 9 states.
*The Red Cross has served nearly 164,000 meals since the storm hit on Monday night.
*3,300 disaster workers have been deployed from all over the country.
*More than two-thirds of the ENTIRE Red Cross fleet are in the field for Hurricane Sandy...beginning to distribute meals, water and snacks in hard hit areas.