Thinking of Summer

By Lynette Nyman/American Red Cross

NYT CoverSummer Raffo. I think I will always remember this name. This name, seen in a New York Times cover photo on March 28, 2014, made the Oso mudslide real for me. Seeing a personal plea for her rescue, wrapped by words for emergency workers and Red Cross, from someone who loved her forced my own tears to roll in a public place, surrounded by people sipping coffee, using their computers, and chatting with friends and neighbors. My reaction to the photo, I think, was normal. Finally, after seeing other images and reading other stories, this tragic, heartbreaking, life-changing event became real in my own heart. From a distance, I was affected, feeling the grief of losing someone dear, as if Summer were someone I knew. And so I was reminded that taking care of myself, even from many many miles away, is important for me and the people around me. The Red Cross tips mentioned below remind me that taking care of myself is a way of helping. Later that morning, I searched online for Summer’s name, wondering if there was an update. And there was. Summer Raffo was one of those who perished in the mudslide. Her brother said in one news report that there was some relief for her family to find her and to know. And from miles away, me too.

Some tips from the American Red Cross for taking care during disaster response…this is a difficult time for the entire community responding to and watching this event. It’s important for people to connect with and support each other. Events like this can cause feelings of uncertainty and anxiety since no one knows for sure what will happen next. Remember that it’s okay to feel nervous. Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, drink plenty of water and get enough rest. Be patient with yourself and others. It’s common to have any number of temporary stress reactions such as anger, frustration and anxiety. This is a time where people should take care of themselves and their families. For example, reach out to others to offer and receive support. Parents should let their children talk about their fears and then reassure them about their safety. People should also be careful not to overexpose themselves to media reports about the tragedy. 

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