May not seem exciting the way those others do
I'm emotion, my devotion
You will need some day as I need you
I arrived at the Red Cross headquarters for Hurricanes Ike and Gustav in suburban Ft. Worth. Like I mentioned before, it was an abandoned Wal-Mart with about 200 miscellaneous Red Cross workers stationed at one of the 20 stations sprawled across the floor. The place was humming and walking in was like walking into a giant office complex without the cubicles. The place had charts, graphs, maps, and easel post-its all over the walls and wires strung out all over the place.
I soon found a sheltering team which had a couple team members bow out for various reasons. I greeted everyone on the team and based on their accents I figured this was a team entirely from Texas. All four middle aged people had drawls and they all seemed very fun and happy. To my surprise no one was from Texas or even close to Texas--two of the people were from Oregon, one from Vegas, and the guy with the deepest drawl I have ever heard was only ten hours away from me in NW Missouri.
Everyone I just met got back from Texarkana where they opened and closed a shelter in about ten days. They told me all the stories and people that they met while in Texarkana. They mentioned "Big Momma" and all the sugared up kids in the shelter. They also mentioned the 2nd hurricane that came through while they were trying to fill a perscription I spent the first few days in Ft. Worth listening to my team talk about their lives and their experience in Texarcana.
Eventually one of the four people I met bowed out due to family illness and our team was down to four. We had Vegas Vicki who was very outspoken and one hell of an effective leader. Vicki scored us hotel rooms, awesome working hours, and she was one of the most effective managers I had ever seen. Coming from Oregon we had Janet who was a blast to hang out with. If she wasn't breaking her ankle on curbs and talking to sex offenders, she was helping me make fun of people which is always fun. Then there was Vearl who was a 68 year old farmer from NW Missouri. Vearl was the person who I identified the most with because he reminded me so much of my grandpa and he had a story for everything. Making fun of Vearl was especially fun too because he would look off into the distance and finally throw his cap at you.
We all quickly bonded and began waiting for a call for our assignment. We specialized in sheltering which means that we were basically being managers of a shelter until the shelter wasn't needed anymore or we had to leave. I felt relieved that they had done this before because I had that Maroon 5 scenario fresh in my mind. So we waited.
First day---no call
Second day---no call
third day---no call
We waited at this nice hotel for three days. We couldn't afford to explore Ft. Worth at all because we had to be close to our packed bags if we got a call to be somewhere fast. The Hotel was beautiful but it was in the middle of nowhere. We couldn't walk around anywhere and it was hard to get involved into anything with the threat of the phone ringing and canceling out whatever plans we would have.
After three days of waiting I was starting to get a bit concerned. I mean wasn't the Red Cross practically begging people to help out? If so, I'm here, Hello! I used the rest of my vacation to be here and now I'm being told to wait? I was starting to wonder if I would be deployed to Texas only to wait at a hotel for three weeks and not have a chance to actually do anything. If that were the case I'd be devastated and feel completely worthless.
Dad: So what kind of stuff did you do in Texas?
Tom: ugh, nothing. I just hung out in a hotel for three weeks waiting for something to do. It was the worst experience of my life.
Frustrated with the lack of doing anything, Janet and Vearl decided to go home because they didn't want to sit and wait around longer. I don't blame them because they had already opened a shelter and this was complete bullshit to make us wait around like this. Just before we were about to give hugs goodbye to Janet and Vearl, this supervisor came running in and told them that they were not allowed to go home. They had to wait until it was cleared with the supervisor before they went home. So the four of us drove back to the hotel frustrated and wondering how long we'd be staying in this hotel.
Then the phone rang, it was headquarters. Apparently we were being assigned to help start up the shelter in Galveston Island which was a bit of a shock to us. We heard rumors that they would need help in Houston or Beaumont but for some reason Galveston slipped our mind. They told us to be prepared and that the mosquitos were horrible. It was almost as if they were trying to scare us from going down.
I think my group was a bit annoyed that we would have the Galveston shelter. Janet and Vearl must've been especially annoyed because they were minutes away from going home and now they heard that they were being sent to the place that sustained the most damage. Because I was so bored and hadn't done a thing, I was pumped and excited to go to Galveston. I didn't let my team know this because I'm sure Vearl would've choked me to death but I was ready to see some weird things. I was finally going to do something.