Red Cross volunteer serving on front lines in New York
A Red Cross volunteer from Corinth is seeing first-hand the destruction caused by the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on New York, not just in property damage but in the lives of survivors.
And she is doing it at her own personal sacrifice.
Vicki Mitchell, an attorney with the state Department of Human Services in Alcorn County, took unpaid personal leave and vacation time to go to New York to assist those in need. It seems the state only pays the salaries of Red Cross volunteers on leave who work in Mississippi and adjoining states.
Vicki is much braver than I am. With no fear or trepidation, she flew to New York on Oct. 11 and went to work the next day.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft had just announced to the nation that it was very likely that terrorists would strike the nation in the next several days. There have been several bomb threats since her arrival but her only concern is that back home her husband, Donnie, might worry about her.
"It is a big city but I haven't been afraid," she said. "Security is very tight and everyone has been so nice."
She walks to work each day to one of several sites assigned to the rescue effort on Pier 94. About 60 agencies are set up inside the building where she works. These include the police and fire departments, crime victims' unit, DNA processing, Safe Horizon, Salvation Army, insurance companies and representatives of businesses such as Cantor Fitzgerald, which were destroyed in the World Trade Center collapse. Therapet brings pets to the center to provide a special kind of therapy. "It helps everyone and even helps the workers," Vicki said.
The building contains a wall of pictures and mementos. There are pictures and letters sent to the Red Cross and other rescue workers from children across the nation.
Multi-talented Vicki, who has an active registered nurse license, is working in a first aid station. She administers medical aid to families of the missing, residents of nearby buildings displaced by the disaster and any of the several thousand disaster relief workers in the building. A lot of her work is just listening.
"Everyone is so appreciative and I have dealt with everyone from street vendors to attorneys," she said. "If you hand them a glass of water or put on a band aid, they thank you and say God bless you.' The outpouring from the people in New York is amazing."
Her Southern accent gives away her origin. "You are all the way up here from Mississippi?" they ask.
There is a microcosm of New York in one building, every kind of nationality and languages, she said. Her first client brought in a note explaining he needed a Cantonese interpreter.
There is a constant flow of people all day and Vicki stays busy.
The experience has been overwhelming, she said.
"The stories that I hear are awful," she said. "Every day you hear something sadder than the day before."
The American Red Cross estimates it will spend more than $300 million over the next several months to provide ongoing disaster relief for the Sept. 11 tragedies. By far, it is the costliest and most extensive response to any disaster in the 120-year history of the American Red Cross.
Vicki asks everyone who can to please send a donation to his or her local Red Cross chapter and the money will be routed to the national agency to support this great effort.
Jane Clark Summers is a staff writer for the Daily Journal's Corinth Bureau.