I left Maryland this morning with the intent to drive to New York...however, about midway there, I got orders to head to New Brunswick, New Jersey, instead. Flexibility and patience and a good sense of humor are extremely necessary when volunteering with the American Red Cross. So - to New Jersey, I went.
Being the smart person that I am, I topped off my gas tank at the very last exit in Delaware, and it's a good thing, as I was shocked when I came across my first "gas line." Wow. It's one thing to see it on CNN, but to see it in person? Miles of cars, parked along the side of the road, waiting forever to pull into the gas station... sometimes with a cop or two for traffic and temper control. Unbelievable.
I managed to make it to NJ with 3/4 of a tank still left, so I think I'm good for a few days...although HQ put me in a hotel about 17 miles from HQ, which makes for a long drive. And when gas is short - long drives are scary. Speaking of hotels, I'm in the EXACT same hotel I was in a year ago for Hurricane Irene - when I worked in Princeton, NJ...deja vu, huh? The hotel JUST got power as of 5:30 pm this afternoon, so I had incredible timing...as I didn't fancy taking another cold shower or dressing by flashlight.
Arriving at HQ, I was quickly put to work in Logistics again...although our internet here is hit or miss, so it was difficult getting my work done. I think people don't understand that we are affected by adverse conditions, as well...they don't realize that we can't always meet their needs with food or shelter, when we're working with no power, or no gas, or no water, as well. We don't have magic wands that we wave that makes everything all right...so patience, again, is a virtue. We're doing the best we can with the limited resources we have....
The other day, while watching a piece on CNN, I heard the Staten Island mayor mention the "big salaries" that American Red Cross people get. After picking myself up from the floor after laughing so hard, I was then a little ticked. Over 90% of the responders on a disaster are volunteers - I have yet to make one DIME in the seven years I've been doing this. Not that I deserve a golden halo - or a super hero badge - but I leave my comfortable bed, home and family - travel to adverse conditions - sometimes sleeping on a cold cot or the floor - working twelve hour days - dealing with HUGE issues and problems - for up to three weeks - and I do this for NOTHING. Because I want to make a difference in the lives of people affected by a disaster. Big salary, indeed.
Here in NJ, I'm dealing with downed power lines...intermittent power...no gas...few restaurants or amenities...sharing a room with a stranger...and I'm okay with that. I do what I have to do.
It's been a long day...and the next two weeks are going to be tough...for everyone involved.