Below is a story from one of the members of the UGA Red Cross, Michael. His story is a strong example of the strength and devotion our members have to their communities. The Red Cross East Georgia Chapter is proud to support Michael and the UGA Red Cross.
I was called out on a normal fire call on a normal Wednesday night Sept. 18, 2013. The fire was in Jackson County and I was told to meet another volunteer there. Upon my arrival, the fire was almost out but the house was a total loss. The other volunteer and I tried to find out about the family. I was talking to the incident commander (IC) and asked where the family was. He said they were transported to Athens Regional Medical Center for burn injuries. Then, as we were talking, the media started to show up and I noticed there was a state fire investigator there. I knew this event was different, so I asked why he was there. As he left to do an interview, the IC told me this was a fatal fire. About five minutes later they removed the body of the victim from the house. We were told that the family was not advised of the fatality and that it was unknown as to the relationship of the victim to the family members transported to the hospital. The consensus between our dispatcher and myself was that I should go meet another crew of volunteers back in Athens at the hospital to check on the family.
I left Hoschton and headed back to Athens. When I got to Athens Regional I met with two more volunteers from the East Georgia Chapter in the emergency room. We went to the family’s E.R. room, where they had just been told of the fatality. As it turns out, the victim was their special needs son. They were devastated and didn’t really know what to do. As we tried to get paperwork started, the family told us that one of their sets of parents was on the way from Alabama. We waited with the rest of the family and talked to them while we waited for the parents.
About an hour and a half later, the parents arrived. As we continued to talk to everyone about the next steps, one of the parents took me aside and asked me to help them because they had no idea what to do. We started the paperwork and located a hotel as close as possible to their home town in Jackson County. We saw them through their discharge and accompanied them to their hotel. We got the paperwork done and finally got them to their rooms.
Although we didn’t know the family, this case was heart-wrenching. The volunteers and I felt the pain of the clients. My major take away from this case was that in the worst night of the clients’ lives, the Red Cross was there. When the work of the fire department and first responders is done, the Red Cross is still there to help. Despite having classes the next day, the road to recovery for the clients was our first priority. Even though the family initially said that they didn’t need any help, they ended up taking it as devastation consumed them.
That is my vision of the Red Cross: the fact that there are people to go out in the field at inopportune times to deal with devastating disasters at the local level is incredible to me. It is invaluable to have people who know what to do in such a disaster and are able to think clearly enough to start to rebuild lives. Before I joined this group, I never knew that there were such teams of people. It makes me feel better to know that if I was in this situation, I would have a team of competent people there to help me start the long road to recovery.