Susan Smith Remembers the Faces of 9/11…

September 11, 2014

Written by Susan Smith, a Red Cross employee. She served in New York City on behalf of the Red Cross and was away from her family and Triad home from September through mid November 2001.

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I was asked if I would share my experiences that started on a crisp, beautiful, clear blue sky day in September 2001 – my first thought…where I begin.  So many emotions, thoughts, words, deeds experiences… but my mind kept coming back to “faces”.

The day started like many others for me…arrived at the Greensboro Chapter, first “face” was our smiling receptionist, then  other  co-workers greeting each other with hello, volunteers in the chapter for meetings, office volunteers beginning their “normal” day too…next it was down the hall to my office, check a few emails and then for a reason I don’t recall  I walked into our blood center and saw the first news report of a day that would change me forever and the “faces” of the news reporters, “faces” of people running for their lives, “faces” of the responders running into danger, “faces” of people helping people .

My first thought was disbelief, horror and then like thousands of “Red Crossers” across the country we started doing what we do – and the “faces” started to appear –“faces” of our seasoned volunteers coming into the chapter, instinctively knowing there was much ahead of us; “faces” of blood donors lining up to give blood – those “faces”, patiently waiting for hours to donate with no complaints, “faces” of the community offering help in every way they could think of, “faces” of Red Cross employees doing whatever the moment called for.

Next were the “faces” of the many volunteers coming to the Greensboro chapter for deployment to the Red Cross response at the Pentagon, Somerset County PA and New York City.

In early October, I too was a “face” on a plane bound for New York to serve on our Red Cross Disaster Relief Operation.

The first voice and “face” I encountered as I anxiously walked into the Red Cross Headquarters was one of the Greensboro volunteers I helped deploy a few weeks before, her “face” full of compassion and comfort and around her “faces” of the multitude of the Red Cross family – not only American Red Cross but our Canadian Red Crossers – those “faces” gave me and so many others much comfort as we set out to serve and many of us making friendships for a lifetime.

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My role was to help coordinate the thousands of Red Crossers’ and spontaneous volunteers arriving in NYC to serve alongside each other.   I began in our Headquarters based in Brooklyn and within a few days was assigned to a client assistance center on Canal Street just blocks away from Ground Zero and right on the edge of Chinatown…so many “faces” of people needing assistance and volunteers with willing hearts.  Forever I’ll remember the “face” of the young Chinese teenager intently watching and learning each stroke of the elder Chinese gentleman’s pen as he translated a sign I needed to post in the center…it is as clear in my mind today as it was that day the connection they too made that day, never having experienced an opportunity to see the beautiful strokes to make the words.

At the service center, I met a young couple from Pakistan that lived a few blocks away, their “faces” wanting to serve even though they too had been affected – her uncle had been badly injured when one of the Towers collapsed.   I so remember their “faces” the day I told them I was being reassigned to work in a Respite Center in the Ground Zero perimeter  that Red Cross was providing for responders –  their “faces” of concern that I would most likely not find my way navigating the subway so insisted they ride with me on the subway to get me where I needed to go…and upon arrival at the subway station to find it closed… their “faces” knowing I had no idea of how to hail a cab –they hailed the cab for me,  gave the driver very specific instructions… as the cab pulled away and I waved goodbye knowing our paths would never cross again I saw in their “faces” another moment of many moments when the “faces” of New Yorkers reflected gratefulness beyond compare…grateful so many people came to help their beloved city…I like to think they remember my face of grateful ness  too!

I arrived at the Respite Center – “faces” of the first responders, steel workers, construction workers – so many coming in for brief moments of rest, sleep, nourishment, quick showers , additional equipment, clean clothes, many hadn’t been home in weeks –  “faces” missing their loved ones, somber, tired  yet determined, strong – those “faces”  had shed many a tear but also had ear to ear smiles when they read the thousands of cards and banners  posted around the Respite Center… many handmade, drawn by school children with so many pictures and words of thank you, remembrance, faith, encouragement and love.   I remember the “faces” of the strong, muscular, tough steel workers, as one stuck a teddy bear in his hip pocket as he walked to take a short nap and the other ribbing him.  Again, “faces” of willing volunteers doing everything humanly possible to put on our strong “faces” as we committed to give the responders much needed respite care.

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November 12th,  I had finished packing my bag and doing the last check of my room when the news of American Airlines Flight 587 leaving NYC for Santo Domingo crashed in the Belle Haven neighborhood of Queens,  all 260 souls on board perished and 5 people on the ground…the phone in my room rang, it was my supervisor asking me to make my way to the Family Assistance center the Red Cross was setting up in response to this tragedy…I’ll never forget  the “faces” of the families learning the fate of their loved ones… “faces” of grief beyond description.

A few days later I was welcomed home by “faces” of my loving family – relieved I was home safe and as humbled as I was that their mom, wife, sister, daughter was honored to serve in a small way.

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In January of 2014, I went back to New York City to serve on the Red Cross Super Storm Sandy relief operation– on a day off I knew I had  to pay my respects at the World Trade Center 9/11 Memorial  and decided a tour would be best…while waiting for the tour to begin, the guide asked me if I was in town for a visit or business…as soon as I said Red Cross her “face” lit up, she asked me where I worked…while we didn’t remember each other’s physical “faces” we discovered she had  volunteered with Red Cross at the same Respite Center I had during the same time…our paths crossed in 2001 and again in 2014…call it coincidence or fate, it doesn’t matter another “face” I carry with me.

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Like thousands of others my life changed forever on September 11, 2001.  The “faces” will forever stir so many things in my soul…I will NEVER FORGET those that perished and I will NEVER FORGET  the “faces” in my heart…“faces” of courage, compassion, faith , hope, charity, love and human kindness beyond compare -

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How Can We Get Connected in a New Town? The Red Cross!

September 9, 2014

Written by Robert Mundy and Nicole LicatoOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nicole and I moved to Greensboro in May. We had lived, worked, and studied across the Northeast, but with our degree programs finally finished, we looked forward to exploring a new part of the country. Greensboro felt like a good fit. Nicole, a nurse, now works at the Women’s Hospital. We spend our free time getting to know our new home.

We quickly fell in love with the region’s hiking, museums, and wonderfully not-freezing climate. But we didn’t feel connected to our community. We were eight hours from friends, family, and the nonprofits we had worked for. We needed more.

The Red Cross seemed like a logical place to look for answers. We gave blood and then learned that we could volunteer in lots of different ways. I joined Rosemary Spezzo of International Services at an outreach event. Rosemary and I had a great time. She introduced me to representatives of local nonprofits, which I greatly appreciated as a new resident. Nicole and I love getting to know local service organizations; their staff members are often intimately connected to the community’s needs, presenting us with great opportunities to apply our own talents to worthy causes. Nicole joined the Mass Care team and Health Services. I joined the Disaster Mental Health team. We are both finishing the training now to join the Disaster Action Team (DAT).  We are looking forward to our first disaster response experiences, serving local residents in times of need.

Adjusting to a new town isn’t always easy. We’ve lived in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C., and each city presented its own difficulties. But Greensboro felt like a natural transition for us. We can thank the Red Cross for that.  Everyone at the Red Cross has been so kind and welcoming, often giving us suggestions for things to do. They are able to answer questions quickly related to volunteering and trainings. They are excited to have us on board and have given us multiple opportunities to volunteer in ways that are valuable. Thank you Red Cross staff and volunteers for being so open and warm to Nicole and I!


150 Years of the Geneva Convention

August 22, 2014

Posted on by Kristiana Almeida

One hundred and fifty years ago, the original Geneva Convention—more commonly known as the rules of war—was created. These rules govern and limit actions that take place during armed conflict, such as the protection of civilians and the wounded. And while many people have heard of these rules in one way or another, many do not know that the creation of the Red Cross movement is at the very heart of these rules.

After Henry Dunant, a Swiss businessman and social activist witnessed the atrocities of war during the Battle of Solferino in 1859, he recorded his encounter in the book A Memory of Solferino. Four years later in 1863, he formed the International Committee of the Red Cross as a direct response to that experience as an organization that could provide humanitarian aid to those impacted by the tragedy of war. The following year, the Geneva Convention was written, based on Dunant’s ideas and principles.

Today, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the original Geneva Convention, we call on all parties to all conflicts to preserve what it means to be human by complying with the rules of war. Even war has limits. Learn more at http://www.redcross.org/rulesofwar .

Watch a simple video created by the International Committee of the Red Cross. 


One of Your Neighbors Has Been Getting Transfusions All His Life

August 20, 2014

Burns Blackwell is a Red Cross Board Member for the Greensboro Chapter. Until a few weeks ago, none of us knew he had a Red Cross story like few others. He now volunteers to say thanks for all the blood he has received. Thanks for sharing your story, Burns…

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Burns Blackwell

Burns' brother donating blood

Burns’ brother donating blood

Written by Burns Blackwell
Why give blood at the Red Cross? The answer is easy, people need it and it saves lives. In fact, there have been several times when it saved my own life.

For my entire life up until late 2012, I fought a chronic immune deficiency which caused many illnesses, some known and some unknown (which was scary). I had a defect in my white blood cells, causing them not to fight infections like a normal, healthy person’s white blood cells. The defect was in my neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) and it made me very susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.

When I was very sick my hemoglobin, the amount of oxygen in your blood, would be very low causing the need for a transfusion. Having low hemoglobin is not fun since you feel fatigued and don’t have enough energy to fight the infection. Therefore my lifelong doctor, Dr. Buckley from Duke, would order a transfusion and things would get better giving me more energy to and good cells to fight the infections.

Several days after leaving school as a kid, I would head to Cone Hospital getting both a blood transfusion and another special type of transfusion called a granulocyte transfusion. Both types of transfusions were extremely necessary to help me stay healthy and live a normal life. Sometimes, I would even come home from camp to get transfusions because I could only go for so long without the need. Heading back to camp was always fun and it was like nothing happened.

Then in 2012, I was blessed with the opportunity to have a stem cell transplant to cure my illness and have working neutrophils! My brother John was a perfect match and we would proceed with the transplant. John, never had the genetic illness and never waived once to step in and do what he needed to do.

My wife, Laura, and I moved to Durham to tackle this journey for a better life. The first transplant was not successful, but we kept our heads up. We came back to Greensboro regrouped and went back to attempt transplant number two.

During the second transplant, things were more difficult than the first. (Which I did not think could be possible). My blood counts could not rebound after all of the chemo basically deleted my immune system. I started needing two or three blood transfusions a week due to my spleen. It was trapping all the cells, acting as a filter. Taking my spleen out was the solution and it is a common procedure, however; not when you don’t have an immune system and your spleen is the size of a football. Bleeding was a major concern and the risk for a life threatening infection was even greater than I already had.

That’s when blood transfusions saved the day! The supply from the Red Cross was there for days, then weeks, then what felt like months. I needed that time for my bone marrow to get healthy enough for surgery to be an option. Those transfusions would make me feel so much better! The blood bank got to know my name and was always on full supply from the hard working volunteers at the Red Cross. Having that blood bank was something that we cherish more than you know!

I became healthy enough for my spleen to be removed and it was an instant increase in all my blood counts. It was a miracle; a new immune system was beginning to build and create a whole new life. Thank goodness for all of the times that the blood was there when I needed it.
Now my wife and I are back in Greensboro and are blessed again, this time with an amazing 7 month old son. We frequently look back on all of those times, and are always so glad for all the resources and technology that was available.

This past birthday, my wife gave me a book of the blog we kept during our journey through Durham. http://blackwellbmt.blogspot.com/ Hopefully someday my son can read this and have the desire to go give blood at the Red Cross. There are always people like me needing this gift! Thanks for all the volunteers that made it happen!


Red Cross Helps Prisoners of War

August 14, 2014

It never ceases to amaze me all the things the Red Cross does. Disaster and Blood Services are pretty well known but our best kept secret is Restoring Family Links. Most people don’t know we help refugees living in the US track down loved ones who are still in other countries. Here’s a beautiful story from last November

First meeting since 2008. Photo by News 2

First meeting since 2008. Photo by News 2


Most recently our tracking skills have been called into action to help Prisoners of War in Saudi Arabia during the First Gulf War. Thousands of Iraqis fled across the border to refugee camps. Many of them were Iraqi soldiers who defected from Saddam Hussein’s army. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited and registered former soldiers and Prisoners of War in the Saudi camps. Since then, many have come to America through the US refugee resettlement program.
Here’s where the American Red Cross comes in. The government of Iraq established a program to provide reparations to Iraqi nationals who fled the country. Thousands of Iraqi refugees now living in the US are seeking documentation of their time in Saudi camps. They can then return to Iraq to claim their reparations. The American Red Cross can help get that information.
If you or someone you know needs documentation, call your local Red Cross. They will be able to submit the forms to get the process started. Currently, a man from Rockingham County is waiting for his documents to be returned.
You never know what all the Red Cross is up to- but you can be pretty sure, it’s more than you think!


Platelet Donation # 600!

August 12, 2014

Ed Rothrock3

Ed Rothrock

Ed Rothrock2

When Ed Rothrock was a child, he lost a cousin to leukemia. He vowed that if he could ever do anything to help, he would. He began donating platelets in 1991 and hasn’t stopped since. This week, he gave his 600th donation. He went in, kicked back and relaxed. When you donate platelets every other week, you get pretty comfortable with the staff. Ed looks forward to seeing the them regularly- and they look forward to seeing him. My favorite part was having the donors (yes, all regulars) offer me snacks from “their” canteen. Typically volunteers staff the canteen at a normal blood drive or blood center. These guys are there so often, they see it as going into their own kitchen- which is really cool to see!

This is probably your first question. What is a platelet?

It’s something in your blood that keeps you from bleeding to death.

Yep, pretty important!

Most of us have platelets that do their job without us even thinking about it. But many cancer patients and organ and bone marrow recipients don’t have that luxury. I think most of us would agree that there’s nothing good about cancer. Well, this isn’t going to make you like it any more. When chemo and radiation kill cancer cells, they also kill platelets- a clotting agent. On top of everything else people with cancer have to deal with, they also have the possibility of hemorrhaging.

The good news is that we can help them by donating platelets. Like blood, we can’t make platelets in a lab. If your friend or family member has recieved platelets, someone has taken time out of their day to visit a Red Cross blood center to donate. If you have been wondering what you can do for your friend struggling with cancer, here’s something that will help even more than a casserole or card. Platelets can literally help someone else battling cancer. That
casserole may be tasty but platelets will have an even longer lasting effect.

If you would like to donate platelets, just call 1-800-REDCROSS for an appointment. (Since the process is a bit more complicated, not every blood drive is equipped to take platelet donations. An appointment is a good way to make sure you get to the right location.)


Farewell, Little Hummingbird…

July 31, 2014

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By Leigh Brock
Typically this blog is about people who have given or recieved blood. Today it’s about the person who brings in the donors. Lu Johnson has been with the Red Cross for 14 years and everyone who has met her remembers her. She’s retiring this week and she will be terribly missed.

Lu Johnson has more spunk than anyone I know. Her boss says she reminds him of a hummingbird. It’s true! (If you know her, you get it!) In fact, I tried to take pictures at her retirement party yesterday and hardly came up with a single good one. She was in motion in every shot. She also talks faster than any of us can think. Her voice and e-mails are legendary. She can tell you what she’s done today… about the lovely new friend she just met… how her cousin is doing… compliment your shoes… and still throw in a few YEHI’s!!!! before you know what hit you. A volunteer once said, “I don’t always know what she is saying- but I always know it’s good”. That explains Lady Lu to a tee…

The best thing about Lady Lu is the way she makes you feel when you’re around her. She lets you know you’re loved. She’s a life-long friend- whether you’ve known her for a few hours or for years- that’s according to one of her four college roommates who attended the party. You must be doing something right if your high school and college friends attend your retirement party.

Lu has made the Greensboro Blood Center a success. Those at her party ranged from old friends to donors to co-workers from across NC to the people who hired her. That’s how much she will be missed.

Lady Lu, we wish you well! Just so you know, you have people lined up, ready to take you back as a volunteer. Will you choose disaster, fundraising, communications or stick with blood? Either way, we want to see you back!


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