CFI’s Dr. Tim Doty volunteered last week with the American Red Cross in Moore as a Disaster Mental Health responder. This blog post is reposted from www.DrTimDoty.com
As you have all seen from the pictures, videos, news reports, etc., the devastation is immense and fierce…but so is the spirit to rebuild. I had two different assignments while on the scene. The first was to accompany an Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV)into the field to give out hot meals and cold water to people who haven’t had power or access for days. I was assigned to a team of two nurses and two disaster mental health volunteers to help triage wounds, both emotional and physical. We talked to people who had lost everything…in fact some people had lost everything more than once. They also survived the May 3, 1999 tornado.
In Disaster Mental Health, our role is to encourage, support, promote healthy coping strategies and to help identify those who need help immediately (like psychosis or suicidal/homicidal). There has been media coverage about who was let into the disaster areas and who was not (as in some residents) during the search and rescue and search and recovery phases of the disaster response. Red Cross was given access on Wednesday, so we were among the first to be delivering food and water since Monday. People were gracious. They have been through incredible events.
Yesterday (Thursday) I had the honor of assisting with the reunion of the Briarwood elementary school that took place at Bonds elementary in Moore, just down the road from the destroyed Briarwood. Again, as a Disaster Mental Health volunteer for the Red Cross, 8 psychologists were sent (4 each) to Briarwood and Plaza Towers reunions. It was a touching and powerful event. Students and teachers reconnected. Parents and family members were able to hug one another and actually close out their school year, which they were otherwise unable to do since the school was destroyed Monday. Some of the students were telling one another “I saw you on TV, so I knew you were ok.” In fact, one father did not know that his son was alright until he viewed his son on TV as well.
The work through the Red Cross is emotionally challenging, but very rewarding when you can help encourage healthy coping strategies and help families predict the kinds of emotions and responses they are likely to encounter in the days and weeks ahead.
Our prayers continue to be with the survivors as they rebuild.