Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Brooklyn Tornado Story: "The Red Cross gave me a sense of relief"

Phyllis Ebanks (Photo: Anita Salzberg)
As Phyllis Ebanks and Sherry Dowling, who lived on different floors of the same apartment building on Quincy Street in Brooklyn, made their way home on the evening of September 16th, they had no idea that their building had just been hit by a tornado.

They each arrived home sometime after 7 pm, only to be greeted by the chaotic sight of blown-out windows, fire trucks lining the street, yellow police tape cordoning off the building and the sounds of despair. Neighbors soon explained to them that they were struck by a freak storm. “The roofs from the buildings next to ours had blown onto the top of our building, caving in the ceiling of the room where I sleep!” Phyllis recalled.

Due to possible structural damage, she and Sherry soon were told that all tenants from their building were barred from entering, that it could take weeks for that situation to change. Neither knew what they were going to do. After learning that the Red Cross might be able to assist, the women separately made their way to the New York Red Cross Chapter headquarters in Manhattan, hoping for real help.

“The Red Cross gave me a sense of relief,” said Phyllis. “Desperate for information, I poured out questions like crazy and not once did the Red Cross people tell me that I’d have to wait for the answers. They helped me with money for food and put me in a hotel right away; they didn’t leave me wondering where I was going to stay.”

“I love the Red Cross,” said Sherry, who received emergency housing, a stipend for food, and referrals to city agencies for further services. “If it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t know my next step—what I was going to eat, where I was going to sleep. They really helped a lot.”

Phyllis Ebanks and Sherry Dowling from Brooklyn, NY

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