Remembering Sandy: “Minnesota, I got your back”

Red Cross responder Sue Buelow is back from New Jersey where she helped with Superstorm Sandy disaster relief efforts. Below, Sue looks back.

The very beginning was a lot of trying to figure out the response system and getting used to hurry up and wait. But soon after arriving I was assigned to supervising special field teams doing “seek and serve” emotional support and traveling to Moonachie, Newark, Jersey City, Toms River and nearby damaged communities.

Sue Buelow (l) and Lizzie Kampf (r) while responding to Superstorm Sandy disaster relief in New Jersey.
Sue Buelow (l) and Lizzie Kampf (r) while responding to Superstorm Sandy disaster relief in New Jersey.

I learned a few things along the way: 1) speed limit signs are a suggestion, 2) many cities are not on a map, 3) there are few places that allow left turns, 4) be thankful for clean clothes; and 5) they love Minnesotan accents there!

The work was hard emotionally and physically. My first partner had to return home to California for health reasons. Then, for the next 12 days I had the pleasure of partnering with Lizzie Kampf, a new “just-in-time”  disaster mental health responder who was also from the Twin Cities. It felt like we’d known each other a lifetime. I was sad to see Lizzie leave before I finished my final week there. I didn’t know what I’d do without her driving the truck — she took on the persona of a New York cab driver quite naturally.

Lizzie and I went to New Jersey’s upper Barrier Island as the residents returned to see their homes, or absence of, for the first time. The devastation to the townships there was beyond words. The water and sand was 4-5 feet deep and the waves were up to 12 feet high.  The stories of the emergency medical services (EMS) workers and residents who rode out the storm there were frightening. We bonded with these communities and it was not unusual to hear “Hey,  Minnesota….” My last contact with one of the EMS workers that had been struggling was “Minnesota, I got your back.”

Being there when the residents saw their condemned or empty lot of debris was indescribable as they collapsed into my arms, sobbing and needing a “Minnesota hug.” We helped look for mementos in the debris, from small things to stones of a child’s hand and foot prints. We were there for those in shock who couldn’t think to pack up some clothes. Listening to them tell their stories and showing us their homes or pictures was moving.

I certainly have received a great gift from the same people: I believe I have helped them. I am blessed to have had a small part of their lives and in their recovery from this disaster. I will always remember my time spent there.

Sue returned home a few days ago. She is among more than 100 Red Cross disaster relief workers (mostly volunteers) from Minnesota who have responded to Sandy.

Stop Over And Make Someone Smile

Special Post From Red Cross Disaster Volunteer Dun Bui

Dun Bui (far right) and other Red Cross disaster responders at the shelter in Oceanport, New Jersey.

Red Cross volunteers from Kentucky, Ohio, New York, Minnesota and Wisconsin are working together at the shelter at Maple Place School in Oceanport, New Jersey.

Over 600 people have checked into the Red Cross shelter established at Maple Place School in Oceanport over the past 48 hours. Many have come in for a hot meal, chance to charge some electronic devices, file a claim with FEMA or just talk with a friendly volunteer.

A majority of the Red Cross volunteers are not even from this area or state. A husband and wife drove from Kentucky, one woman came in from Ohio, another from up-state New York while two others are from Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Volunteers are needed at the shelter to assist with serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also people are needed to help watch and supervise children and play games with senior citizens. The shelter is open 24 hours. And if you can spare an hour or so, stop over and make someone smile.

Thank you to Dun Bui and the other 5,400 Red Cross volunteers responding to the Superstorm Sandy disaster on the East Coast. Take care and return home safe and happy.