The fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina is an opportunity for me to
reflect upon my experiences in Gulf Port, Mississippi. One of my most
poignant memories is when I accompanied a fellow volunteer and Gulf Port
resident to her home. When my colleague evacuated, she thought she
would return the next day. Of course she was prepared for some damage
but nothing she hadn’t seen before. Her home, after all, had survived
Hurricane Camille. All that was left was a foundation. There wasn’t
even that much debris because the remnants of her home were pushed, by
the storm surge, over a block away. Her home, her memories were a part
of the debris field that included the homes of her neighbors. That
debris field was now one communal memory of Hurricane Katrina. As we
know, the heartbreak and devastation felt by my fellow volunteer was
multiplied hundreds of thousands of times across the Gulf Coast.
I am using this anniversary to be grateful for what I have and to
reaffirm my commitment to the organization and to the mission of the
American Red Cross:
“The American Red Cross, a humanitarian organization led by
volunteers and guided by its Congressional Charter and the Fundamental
Principles of the International Red Cross Movement, will provide
relief to victims of disaster and help people prevent, prepare for, and
My belief in this mission and our guiding principles is why I volunteer.
I hope all paid staff and volunteers will use this opportunity to
reflect upon our mission and to place themselves in the shoes of
disaster victims. How would it feel to lose everything? It doesn’t
matter if a home is lost to a single family fire or to a large scale
disaster. The heartbreak and devastation are the same.
I am thankful that I, in some small way, can be a part of a disaster
victim’s recovery. Every job we do, whether on the frontlines or behind
the scenes, is important to that recovery.
Let’s use this anniversary to be thankful, to remember why we do the
jobs we do and to find better ways to work together to serve our
organization and community.