Tuesday, September 21, 2021

In Case You Missed It

The Long Island Red Cross opened a reception center for residents following a fire in Freeport.

Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross has continued to support communities impacted by Hurricane Ida while providing emergency assistance to individuals affected by other local disasters, mostly home fires.

Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Activities

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Happy #HispanicHeritageMonth! This month we celebrate the vibrant heritage and significant contributions that Hispanic and Latinx-Americans have made to our country and to the Red Cross. We salute the service of all our Hispanic and Latinx volunteers. 

Some of their stories are featured below:

Dr. Joseph Prewitt Diaz is a pioneer in the field of disaster mental health with decades of international and domestic field experience following disasters. In his time with the American Red Cross he has supported 52 domestic deployments across the US. Internationally, he has worked in 29 different countries with the organization.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Dr. Prewitt Diaz is a highly-accredited educational psychologist with degrees from the University of Puerto Rico, the University of Connecticut, and the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been an outpouring of interest from residents seeking out new ways to give back to their communities. Vanessa Diez, from Yonkers, N.Y., is a full time student pursuing her master’s in public administration/emergency management and a full time social worker, helping immigrant youth in NYC. She is a remarkable young woman who, despite a busy schedule,  made it a priority to serve through the American Red Cross as a volunteer. She recently joined the Red Cross and just graduated from our Disaster Action Team Academy, a specialized training program for our volunteer leaders. In this conversation, she talked about her passion for helping others and her work with the Red Cross providing assistance to individuals affected by local emergencies during the pandemic.


Following a near-fatal car accident, Neale Sanchez’ life changed forever. It inspired him to become a nurse so he could help save lives. Now retired, Sanchez says his life changed again when he joined the Red Cross in summer of 2019.



Maria Anguiano is a Red Cross volunteer from Queens, N.Y. who has been a very active member of our disaster response team. She originally joined us as a member of MIRA USA, a non-profit organization that promotes the social integration of immigrants in the United States.

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“When I was about 10 years old, back in El Salvador, we got hit by the civil war, and we got a bunch of refugees from our own people. My dad was a leader of the church, so he went to the place that took in all the refugees. Since that experience, my heart and my hands were always open for the people who’d really need it. And the Red Cross values of compassion connects strongly with my core values and what my family taught me to do too. My kids are learning there is this other way to live, to be open to help other people without expecting anything in return because you do it with your heart. Sometimes they say, ‘Dad, you’re tired, you came from work, and now you’re going to that fire in the middle of the night?’ And I say, yes. Life is not about us and not about profit. When you help and you serve, something inside you is satisfied and rewarded. That is the most important thing because happiness is before all else.” –Edras Hidalgo, Authorized Driver, Mass Care and DAT Team Member (#Brentwood, NY) #MyRedCrossLife #RedCrossStory #Volunteer #LongIsland

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"One of the hardest days when I was at the Harlem Service Center for mostly survivors of Hurricane Maria from Puerto Rico, I think was when I spoke to this one gentleman. And I’m saying hard, because it was hard for me to accept. This gentleman was sleeping in his car for three weeks in the cold, and somebody finally told him go to the Red Cross. In Puerto Rico, he had applied for FEMA and they gave him a number, but he was not aware that FEMA was giving them Temporary Shelter Assistance. So he came to New York with nothing, sleeping in a friend’s car because he had no belongings. And it was hard knowing that he could’ve gotten shelter and meanwhile, he was sleeping in a car for three weeks. He had family, but they didn’t have room for him. I was able to get him a hotel...I think that was one of the hardest things. But to me that gave me even more incentive to get people housed and get people the services they needed. And while I was at the service center, I was able to house close to 40-50 families." - Carlos Menendez, specialty instructor and Disaster Assessment lead for Metro-NY North in Westchester County #MyRedCrossLife

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Nurse Betsy Tirado has been volunteering with the American Red Cross for about twenty years. She is an active member of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN).

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

The American Red Cross in Greater NY Responds to Hurricane Ida

Since remnants of Hurricane Ida caused devastating flash flooding in our area, Red Cross teams have been working around the clock to provide safe shelter, cleanup supplies, emotional support, and more.

September 17 - Linda Jo Diamond is passionate about volunteering. Before joining the Red Cross, she was a Peace Corp Volunteer for 2 and a half years. Today, she is working as an Red Cross Caseworker for those impacted by Hurricane Ida. This is her first deployment. She said "I guess you could say I have the volunteer bug" On her work , she says "the community has embraced us and I love helping in some small way." If asked if she will deploy again, Linda Jo replied with a smile: "I just updated my availability." (Photo: Abigail Adams)

September 13 - Red Cross caseworkers have been working around the clock to help people impacted by Hurricane Ida. Susan Lund, who is from the Eastern Connecticut Chapter, says she does the work because she loves to help people. Red Cross workers, like Lund, bring hope to people when they need it most. She was given a paper flower by a woman she helped recently. The woman told her: "Yesterday I was depressed , today I am not because of you." (Photo: Abigail Adams)

September 13 - Lisa is a relatively new volunteer with the American Red Cross Metro NY North Chapter and the response to Hurricane Ida was her first experience working in shelter. When asked what she did at the Mamaroneck facility supporting dozens of evacuees, she said: "I problem solved. I even put my Spanish into use. The work is incredibly rewarding." Lisa, who lives nearly, added emphatically: "This is my community!" (Photo Abigail Adams)

September 10 - Milton Parra was one of many Queens residents who welcomed a Red Cross cleanup kit. He explained how high the floodwater reached on his back fence and pointed to a new crack in his basement wall, from which he had already removed all of the sheetrock. He explained: "we don't have proper drainage here," and when the water got high this time, the cars riding up Astoria Boulevard made matters worse by creating waves which flowed down the alley behind his house. (Photo: Kevin Suttlehan) 

September 10 - A Red Cross volunteer delivers cleanup supplies in East Elmhurst, Queens, a community badly hit by flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida. (Photo: Kevin Sullehan)

September 5 - Woodside, Queens resident, Max Pina had been cleaning his house for several days after Hurricane Ida. During the storm, the water outside his home rose as high as six feet and all his plumbing backed up. The walls in his house as well as his toilets and floors were all severely damaged. As Red Cross volunteer Mary Cueva handed him a clean-up kit, Max, relieved, replied “good timing!” (Photo: John Eng)

September 4 - Red Cross volunteers like Manuel and Bernadette are available to help NYC families affected by Hurricane Ida at any of the five NYC Service Centers located in each borough.

September 4 - Red Cross Team at Floral Park delivering food to shelter assisted living residents who have mobility issues.

September 4 - Partner Bill Cusano from Meals on Main Street by Caritas shows his support of the community members staying at the Mamaroneck by delivering meals.

September 3 - Red Cross teams canvassed neighborhoods across Greater NY, assessing flood damage, distributing cleanup supplies and sharing information with residents about Red Cross services. Richard Sanford and fellow volunteers spent a good part of their day in Woodside, Queens where families faced feet of water in their homes, submerged cars and lost belongings.

September 1 - After historic flooding forced Betty Montiero from her Mamaroneck home, she and her family found refuge at a Red Cross shelter. (Photo credit: Kevin Suttlehan)

In Case You Missed It

Red Cross volunteers providing canteen services at the 9/11 memorial
at the St. Patrick's Cathedral. (Photos: Vivian Moy)
Over the last seven days, the Greater New York Red Cross has continued to support communities affected by Hurricane Ida. In addition, we have continued to provide providing emergency assistance to individuals affected by other local disasters, mostly home fires.

Here are some highlights from last week and a preview of upcoming activities. (See below)

Last Week in Review

Upcoming Events and Activities

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Remembering 9/11: The First Few Hours of the Greater NY Red Cross Response

Every year on September 11 we reflect on that fateful day in 2001 and on the trying weeks, months and years that followed. We do so to honor those we lost, to comfort those still grieving and to thank those who gave of themselves to help us heal.

Just as our nation was forever changed, so was the Red Cross. Our organization’s relief effort—in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pa.— was one of the largest in our organization’s history. The response continued for years after the attacks and involved more than 57,000 volunteers and employees from across the country.

No one place was affected as profoundly as our great city and no Red Cross chapter was as deeply impacted than Greater New York; we were at the epicenter of the relief effort. Within moments of the first plane striking the North Tower, teams of Greater Red Cross staff sprang into action to help.

Here is their story:

Minutes after the first plane struck the North Tower, Greater New York Senior Director of Emergency Services Virginia Mewborn and Assistant Director of Operations Max Green left the chapter’s headquarters on Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan to respond to what they then thought was a small plane hitting the World Trade Center.

Green and Mewborn were planning to evaluate the situation to see how the Red Cross could best support emergency personnel at the scene. On the drive down, Green said he felt that if the building were evacuated early, “…it would have been a long-term canteen operation, where we would support emergency workers.”

As they drove, Virginia paged Red Cross Field Operations Supervisor Luis Avila and asked him to join them. Avila, who was in Queens that morning working a second job, could see the smoke from the North Tower from his location. He told his boss he was leaving, and in fact, never returned to that job. As he left, Avila watched in disbelief as the second plane banked and hit the South Tower.

Mewborn and Green, in their car, began to realize that they had not understood the scope of this incident. “As you got onto the West Side Highway you could see the smoke,” said Green. “My heart fluttered. I looked up at it, saying ‘This, this looks a lot bigger than what I thought it was.’”

The two parked on West Street, south of Chambers and walked towards the World Financial Center (WFC). They hoped to find a command group—people from partner agencies like the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), who would be coordinating this disaster response with the Red Cross.

Because her cell phone wasn’t working, Mewborn borrowed a phone at a shoe repair store to call headquarters. Greater NY Red Cross CEO Bob Bender told her four things: a second plane had hit, they were dealing with a terrorist attack, Red Cross would set up a Respite Center downtown for survivors and first responders, and he’d sent an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) down with a Red Cross disaster responder, Kemagne Theagne, to meet them.

Mewborn and Green found a command post on West Street, right across from the Twin Towers. That’s when they saw a horrific sight—people jumping from the upper stories of the Trade Center. They decided they should not get closer; they should in fact return to the chapter to organize the Red Cross response from there.

Meanwhile, Avila had arrived in lower Manhattan and parked on West and Vesey. “When we get to a scene,” he said, “the first person with a vehicle tries to get as close as they can.” He continued on foot to 7 World Trade, where OEM’s offices were located. “I saw debris everywhere, I was wading through rubble,” he said. As he began to follow a group of fire chiefs, the “haunting scenes” around him convinced Avila he should leave. He turned right to regroup with Green and Mewborn, and the first responders turned left, towards the Towers. Avila later learned they had perished.

As Avila approached the WFC he saw Mewborn and Green, and they walked inside together. “We made a deal that we were going to stay together from that point on,” he said, “that we were going to take care of one another.” Avila was able to contact his wife and let her know he was alright, then the line went dead. “What felt like an earthquake” shook the building. It was the North Tower coming down, but they didn’t know that. They thought the WFC was collapsing on top of them. Suddenly, the building’s windows exploded. Avila grabbed Mewborn and Green. They ran, along with hundreds of others, to the West Side Highway, zigzagging their way back to Green’s car.

Meanwhile, Kemagne Theagne, who had rushed down from chapter headquarters in an ERV, was on Church Street, directly in front of the Towers, trying to find the Red Cross staging area for the relief operation he believed Mewborn, Green and Avila were mounting. He had just gotten out of the ERV to help a woman who had fallen, when he heard, “Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.” He looked up and saw the North Tower coming down, floor by floor. “I just froze; I couldn't believe this was happening.”

As people ran out of the lobby towards Theagne, a man grabbed him. The two ran together, holding one another, towards a staircase leading into a subway station with a locked gate. They were now engulfed by choking soot and debris. Theagne tried calling his three colleagues, but his Nextel radio was dead. He said to himself, “I hope, I hope, I hope they made it.”

His colleagues were on their way back to HQ. As they drove, they spotted a man in Red Cross gear they thought was Theagne. They stopped and pulled him into the car, only to realize that it was responder Barry Crumbley, who had traveled to the site on his own to find his wife, who worked in one of the Towers. (She made it out safely.)

Theagne spent the next 45 minutes at the foot of the staircase, “just waiting,” trying to breathe, until he saw some light trying to break through the smoke. “We used that little bit of sunlight to guide us out.” They climbed up the stairs and ran.

After washing himself off at a nearby deli along with dozens of others, Theagne made his way back to the ERV. “I said to myself, ‘I got to get this vehicle out of here.’” He slowly made his way out of the site in the dust-covered ERV, “driving through the spider web what was the windshield.” When he finally arrived uptown, covered in dust and ash, no one could believe he had brought the ERV back.

Mewborn, Green and Avila had already returned, also covered in soot from head to toe. “I don't know if [our colleagues] thought we were dead or they were seeing a ghost,” said Avila. “All I remember saying is give me water… I drank about two liters as quick as I could.”

After giving themselves a few moments to wash up and regroup, they remobilized with the rest of the Red Cross team. “After we realized everybody was okay, we needed to make sure that we had supplies down there,” said Avila.

They needed to get the canteen trucks (the ERVs), down to the site as quickly as possible to replenish the water for the survivors, firefighters and other emergency personnel. “Preparations had already begun when we were downtown,” Avila said, “but whatever needed to be finished we continued to do.”

That included creating a plan to send caseworkers to Penn Station, Grand Central Station and the Port Authority, to position ERVs on the West Side Highway and the FDR Drive, and to get ready to set up a relief operation at the Brooklyn Chapter.

“And we knew that help was on the way,” said Mewborn. Red Crossers were coming from upstate New York and National Red Cross headquarters in Washington, D.C. There were also lines of people inside Greater NY Red Cross headquarters, waiting to volunteer, give blood or donate money.

“In those first 12, 24, 36, 48 hours,” Mewborn said, “we registered thousands of volunteers and provided service to thousands of people in New York. We did it well, and we started the platform of how we were going to move forward.”